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) c ^^
BOOKS BY BENE BAZIN
PuBUBBBD BT CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
The Barrier imI $1.00
•« This, My Sob" $1^
TheNna ••••••• $1.00
The ComlnK Herveit • • • • • $1.26
(Le BM qui JAr%)
Redemption • • ^ • • • • • $1.25
(De toute ion Ame)
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
AOTHOA OP "the NUN," "BZDEMFTION,
OOMZNO HAKVEST," " THIS, MY SON,"
MARY D. FROST
On the smooth-shaven lawn of the Westgate-on-
Sea Tennis Club where a tournament was in
progress, the final match had just begun between
a pair of teams, each consisting of four men and
as many girls. Team was an appropriate name
for these groups of amateurs of the racket and
ball, whom society so carefully distinguishes
from professionals but who resembled them
closely at this moment, not only in the i^ill and
rapidity of their play, but in their complete ab-
sorption in the game and in the spirit of com-
radeship which precluded the slightest hint of
gallantry or coquetry between the men and
girls. All played alike with an ardour befitting
Ibe champi^Ds of a lon^practised art, with ke^
pride in a clever stroke on either side, and with
an eager emulation far surpassing the mere sense
of youthful enjoyment, and preventing all inter-
change of idle words. At one end of the tennis-
ground, in the shade of a high hedge, a throng of
spectators were gathered, mostly women, and in-
eluding the usual contiilgent of poor but high-
bom British spmsters.
2 THE BARRIER
Two or three of the acknowledged leaders of t
county society presided over this assemblage and
appeared to be holding a sort of semi-regal court,
to which had flocked numbers of summer resi-
dents from the villas along the shore, not from
Westgate only, but from Deal, Berchingtbn, and
other pleasant nooks of this county of Kent re-
nowned for its bracing air and equable climate.
All seemed to know each other, either as mem-
bers of the tennis club or as invited guests, and
to constitute, for the time being, an exclusive co-
terie to which many of them were, evidently,
proud to belong.
An animated talk was going on among the
players who had already taken part in the match,
and who now clustered around one of the ladies
whom they greeted with joyous exclamations of,
^'Oh, Lady Breynolds, I'm sure Reginald will
Having thus paid their respects to her, all.
turned their steps towards a temporary booth
erected in the centre of the lawn, where tea was
The lady so addressed was seated in a low
garden-chair; her figure, which still retained the
slendemess of youth, was set off by a close-fitting
costume of dark-blue serge, her chestnut hair
was coiled about her head in heavy braids, after
the fashion of an earlier day; and though ap-
proaching her fiftieth year, she was still beauti-
ful, with classic regularity of features, and a
marked dir of distinction.
Her face, which in repose was somewhat cold
and reserved, with little play of expression, evinced
a lifelong habit of self-control and a sense of her
own dignity befitting so finished a type of the
^ great lady.
I Yet her greeting was not wanting in grace,
I,' owing to a pretty fashion she had of inclining
) her head to one side as she bestowed on each
1- guest in turn a rapid, penetrating glance which
seemed to say: ''Oh, yes. I recognise you. I
I recall perfectly your name, your family, the very
y words we exchanged when we met, a week, two
[ months, a year ago. All these things concerning
you have the honour of being imprinted on the
memory of Cecilia, Lady Breynolds."
I With the little circle surrounding her who may,
for the moment, have fancied themselves ad-
mitted to her intimacy, her tone was easy, even
I playful, and her clear laugh revealed the candid
simplicity of her 'nature. The talk among the
\ ladies was confined to light comment on the scene
before them. From time to time Lady Brey-
nolds turned to watch her son, who was taking
part in the final match, and as she did so her
light blue eyes, scarcely veiled by their blond
lashes, wore an eager look of maternal pride and
admiration, and as the close of the game ap-
proached her gaze never left that part of the
field where Reginald was playing. He was, how-
ever, far too absorbed in the match to return
All conversation had now ceased, while the
women bent eagerly forward beneath their sun-
shades, and the men, seated cross-legged on the
4 THE BARRIER
grass at their feet, watched each turn of the game
with set lips and contracted brows.
In this breathless silence, broken only by the
buzz and whir of a parsing automobile, the thud
of the balls was distinctly audible. Suddenly
there was a burst of chee^ and a dapping of
hands, not too loud, however, to befit so select
Then followed shouts of, "Bravo, Reginald 1
Well done, old fellow!" while the air rang with
his name, and one connoisseur remarked to
another: "His play reminds me of Alfred Lyttle-
ton's; the same quickness and precision. What
a pity he is ordered back to India so soon! He
wodd certainly win the champion^p."
As Reginald Breynolds made his last success-
ful shot amid shouts of triumph, a brief smile
crossed his serious face, and seemed to express
a momentary sense of the joy of life, of delight in
the spring sunsUne and the fresh sea-b^zes
blowing across the hedge of laurels. He looked
around for the girl who had shared his victory,
not, indeed, as an equal, but as a friendly and
zealous ally, and gaily waved his thanks to her.
Then his face resumed its habitual gravity as,
drawing on the coat which a comrade was hold-
ing out to him, and tightening his belt, he crossed
the field with a long, easy stride, overtopping by
half a head the admiring group who followed
On reaching his mother's side, he pressed the
hand she held out to him in a close, tender grasp
which spoke more eloquently than words, while
THE BARRIER 5
her glances conveyed the exact degree of senti-
ment which she allowed herself to display in pul>-
lie, permissible surely in the mother of so hand-
some and popular a son.
*'I am proud of you/' was all she said, "and
delighted at your success."
She rose slowly as she spoke, closing her tor^
toise-shell lorgnette and slipping it into her belt;
then with a glance at her special intimates invi- I
ting them to follow her, and including the rest of
the circle in a sUght bow, she made her stately
progress towards the tea-table.
There the tennis-players had already gathered
in knots of twos and threes, and the girls were
passing tea, while the men, having laid aside their
rackets, were growing conscious at last that they
had pretty companions.
Etiquette being postponed until dinner, they
were still merely comrades in sport, and the men , "
were free to stretch themselves out at full length ;^
on the grass, to talk or keep silence. They showed, *- /•
in fact, little eagerness for conversation, but lis- ■Jij-"'/
tened idly to the chat of the girls in their bright* \*-:
hued burets, confining themselves to monosylla--^ , ^
bles or an occasional jest in reply and leaving U, >
colloquial efforts to those jweaker vessels who t \^
^spoiljOTOus sport md whpse real rnission^ in-life a. ' >*
IS to amuse "the superior sex. They indulged in \ '
no compliments, but when a girl, prettier or more
spirited than the rest, chanced to raise her arms
to rearrange her disordered locks or lingered near
one of them to ofifer a cup of tea or to discuss
some act of prowess in the game, a gleam of pleas-
6 THE BARRIER
ure might be seen lighting up the eyes of these
*'I hope, Reginald," said his mother, "that
you have congratulated Mile. Marie Limerel.
She played so well," and as her son nodded a
careless assent she added warmly :
"Yes, excessively well; admirably."
"As well as an English girl, lifa^dame?" in-
quired a low, musical voice in which there lurked
a shade of irony. Insignificant as were the words,
something in the modulations of the voice revealed
a harmonious nature. Reginald, who was deep
in conversation with a friend, a heavy youth in a
plaid cap, with the air of a groom, glanced from
his mother to the girl who had just spoken, and
replied: "Not better than an English girl, but
quite differently, and extremely well, as you say,
mother," and having uttered these words in a
tone of constrained politeness, the young soldier
resumed his talk with his friend, Thomas Winne,
a young man who concealed brilliant scientific
attainments beneath an unprepossessing exte^
rior. To him Reginald was relating reminis-
cences of his garrison life in India, of which an
occasional word caught the ear: "As I was say-
ing, I had bought a half-breed collie from a na-
tive, and found him hard to train." And as the
crowd around the tea-table was constantly shift-
ing he took no further part in the general conver-
Daylight lingers long on these late spring days
in England, but the sun was now setting and its
level rays shed a flood of golden light over the
THE BARRIER 7
waves along the shore, over the quivering tops
of the hedgerows, and the fair heads of the girls
around the tea-table, and as Marie Limerel rose
to take her leave she, too, was enveloped in this
flood of splendour. Lady Breynolds who, with-
out being an artist, was keenly alive to beauty,
exclaimed: ^'Look, Dorothy, at the brunette
Marie transformed into a Venetian blonde! How
"It may be wonderful, but it^s not at all be-
coming," replied the young lady thus addressed,
a slight creature of twenty with the eyes of a ga-
zelle and a rose-orchid complexion, who had been
playing a dozen games of tennis with the energy
and endurance of an athlete, and was now redi-
ning lazily in a wicker easy-chair.
"You are very hard to please," rejoined Lady
And, in fact, in this sunset light, the French
girl's rich brown hair piled in wavy masses above
her brow seemed to be crowned with red autumn
foliage and strange-hued seaweeds. It was but
a momentary effect as she stood with the dazzle
of sunlight^ her eyes and a smile on her lips,
holding out her hand to Lady Breynolds; then
she drew back into the shadow of the hedge.
Reginald turned as Mile. Limerel rose to take
leave, and before offering his hand hastily raised
his tennis cap, as if in deference to French custom.
Others in the group called out good-byes to the
departing girl, and such is the spell of a certain
grace of bearing and movement that the talk
ceased for a moment round the table as all turned
8 THE BARRIER
to watch her departure. The sunset glow had
already faded, but the evening light fell full on
her tall, lithe figure, outlining the curve of her
slender throat, cream-white as the petals of a j
magnolia, and the firmly rounded cheek, with its
mantling colour, eloquent of pure race and high
spirit, as, with the light, rhythmic step which be-
tokens character and decision, she moved swiftly
The company now began to disperse. Lady
Bre5molds having been summoned by a groom,
and at last Reginald and his friend were left in
solitary possession of the field. The two young
men were still deep in talk, or rather Reginald
talked while Winne was an intent and motion-
less listener, confining himself to an occasional
question or a murmur of assent. His head was
bent forward and his cheeks were flushed as if
with the effort his sluggish imagination was ma-
king to keep pace with his friend's narrative. He
rarely raised his eyes to Reginald's face, but
when he did so it was with a look of complete
devotion and loyalty towards this friend, who
sat recounting his Indian adventures with head
thrown back and keen gaze fixed on the horizon.
*^It was rough work, then?" queried Winne.
^' Rough indeed! I was sent, the only white
officer, in command of a detachment of the Six-
teenth Rajput Regiment on a reconnaissance into
the higher valleys of Assam. The region is quite
unexplored, with ma^cent scenery, but te^ble
from the torrential rains which almost wash away
the mountains, and from the ferocity pf the
THE BARRIER 9
Mongol population who hate the English^ despise
the Hindoos^ and are constantly fitting among
themselves. It is a country of dense forests and
jungles, with a tropical growth of giant ferns and
creepers, camellias and laurels, forming an almost
impnetrable tangle of tough, glittering, prickly
foliage. We plunged into these thickets, and
after three weeks of constant effort we were able
to set up our camp and give the men a chance
to rest. We encamped amid the ruins of an old
fort in a hollow, bowl-shaped valley. One side
of this natural fortress was formed by the mas-
sive blocks of some very ancient building, doubt-
less a temple; the other three sides we repaired
and strengthened by stakes driven into the
ground and huge tree trunks bound together
with stout creepers. A narrow stream flowed
through the valley, just below the camp. We
had sent out scouts in all directions, but found
no cause for alarm; they brought back reports of
seeing only a few scattered huts, and a solitary
native here and there who fled at their approach.
I profited by this apparent tranquillity to ex-
plore the country, leaving my small force of
thirty men under command of a sergeant known
as Mulvaney, after Kipling's hero."
''Yes, I remember. Had Kipling ever visited
''No, I was the first Englishman who had pene-
trated so far. I set out with an escort of two '
men, hunting as we went. We crossed a high
pass and descended into another valley, much
wider than the first, evidently peopled and partly
10 THE BARRIER
cultivated. Here we were greeted by a Euro-
pean, a missionary, who had been living for
twenty years among this people, unknown to the
outer world, or at least to Assam."
'^ An Englishman?"
"No, a Frenchman, and a Roman Catholic.
He had succeeded in partly civilising a native
population of several thousands, had built a
church, laid out roads, and cleared the land for a
wide space around the village.
"He was a tall thin man, with a grizzled beard.
I spent two days with him, not under his roof,
however, for he lodged in the poorest hut in the
village, while he quartered me with one of the
wealthier natives until we entered the jungle..
What a hunt he gave me! You have heard of
those battues in India where they drive wild
beasts of all sorts into an enclosure, a regular
Noah's ark! After the game had been driven in
by a troop of beaters, shouting and waving flags,
we were posted near the only outlet ; we had barely
time to load our muskets and fire before the mad
rush of infuriated wild beasts was upon us, a leap-
ing, roaring mass of every coat and colour."
"Did the missionary fire, too?"
"He did, indeed, and never missed a shot. I
saw stags and lynxes, hares, foxes, and a tiger,
which your humble servant shot. I saw wild
boars too, and in the midst of this mad rush I
caught sight of two men creeping by close at our
feet, and emerging, three paces oflf, in the jungle.
If they had chosen — ^but I was under special pro-
tection. It was royal sport, such as few hunters
THE BARRIER 11
of big game have known or are likely to know.
But two days later "
'^The sport was fiercer still, was it?"
''It was, indeed. I got back to camp none
too soon. The entire population had gathered
in our rear and were about to attack us. We
were hemmed in by an enemy far more danger-
ous than the wild beasts we had slain in the jungle.
For a fortnight we stood a siege in that block-
house, defended only by trunks of trees and loose
masses of rock. For assailants we had hunger,
thirst, and the hot season in addition to the inces-
sant attacks of a numerous and active foe, and I
saw our end rapidly approaching.
"Suddenly, one morning, a band of unexpected
alhes flung themselves on the savages and made
their way into our camp. They were led by the
abb6, whom I recognised a long way off by his
height and his movements. He brought us sup-
plies, and I owe it to him that I am here at this
moment. But when I attempted to express my
gratitude, I was met by the most singular re-
fusal I have ever encountered."
''What did you offer him?" asked Winne.
"Whatever he wanted. I began by proposing
"Well, what did he say to that?"
"He merely laughed. I then suggested draw-
ing up a report to my chief and obtaining a
pecuniary reward for him as well as an official
Acknowledgment from the British government.
Then he grew serious and said: 'No, my friend,
no honours for me.'
12 THE BARRIER
"I next ofifered to call the attention of the
French government to his noble action, upon
which he laid his hand upon my arm and inter-
rupted me in a harsh tone, but with tears in his eyes.
"Imagine us both perched in a sort of niche in
the wall, a haunt for bats hollowed out o^ the roof
of a temple so ancient that its sculptures could no
longer be distinguished from fissures in the stones.
Our feet hung over the abyss as we sat there, gaz-
ing down into the valley beneath, from which
rose an odour of carnage mingled with blossoms.
"We were the leaders, and as I listened to my
soldiers singing at their supper in the woods fifty
feet below us, I was tasting the first joy of our
rescue. Finally silence set in, with only the blue
vault of the night sky around us.
"I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude
towards our rescuer, a man so brave and so devoid
of ambition; but at last I began to resent his
refusal and to urge upon him the point of honour
which did not permit me to regard the safety of
my men and my own as so trifling a naatter. I
grew angry and must have said something that
wounded him, for when I ended he replied:
"'It is well. You force me to make a cruel
confession. I have deserved it, but I beg you
to keep the secret of my name. For a score of
years I have lived amongst this people; I hope to
die in their service. But before coming out to
India, for the space of several months in Europe,
I was an unworthy priest. I sinned against the
vows of my order — ^my whole life since then has
been an expiation. . . . You understand now,
THE BARRIER 13
my friend, that I have no wish to lessen the rigour
of this expiation. Suffer me to take my leave of
you. You can never remember me now without
remembering my fall, and you have forced me
to feel shame rather than pride in the service I
have been able to render you. But it is better
so. Good-bye.' The next day he left us, and I
never saw him again; but I own to you, my dear
fellow, that I was deeply moved by this meeting.''
''What does it prove?" exclaimed Winne.
"That there are Roman Catholic priests who do
not keep their vows!"
"It proves rather the opposite," Reginald an-
swered, "since such expiations, purely voluntary,
follow on sin — But no, you cannot understand
it. You would have to look into those deep eyes
of his, hollowed out by tears, like stones on the
beach washed for ever by the tide. I was brought
face to face with the mystery of purification. I
felt myself infinitely beneath him. I saw that
there was something more heroic and more mov-
ing than innocence — ^repentance. I would will-
ingly have knelt and asked his blessing."
"The blessing of a sacrilegious priest!"
"What of him who has never repented?"
The square-cut jaw of Reginald's friend moved
in a short, mirthless laugh, and his eyes flashed
beneath his heavy brows as he said:
"You are joking, no doubt."
"No, far from it."
"I should never have fancied you such a poet,
Reginald. And what did you do? Did you kneel
to this priest? "
14 THE BARRIER
''No, but we said a prayer together/'
"What was this prayer? I am curious to
''I do not remember. All this was fifteen
months ago, and since then "
''Well, since then?"
"My views have altered greatly."
Thomas Winne was silent for a long time. He
was grieved and shocked, but the friendship be-
tween the two young men was being strengthened
by their very disagreement. Winne sought for a
formula in which to sum up his thoughts and
had difficulty in finding one. At last he held
out his hand and said: "These are the results
of travel and change of environment. You will
become your old self again here. All this will
pass. How long is it before you go back? "
"Five months at least. I may even get a
Winne reflected that five months at home
might, indeed, accomplish much. He need not
force himself into the secret depths of another's
will and conscience. He merely added :
"For my part, I hate all this priestly business!"
Then the friends walked slowly back towards
Westgate and parted on entering the town, with
the heartiest grasp of the hand they had ex-
changed for years.
Night was now coming on, but the clouds over
the sea still held a lingering glow. It may have
been the waves, stirred by a fresh breeze, which
flung back so many shimmering rays upon the
night sky. Meanwhile Marie Limerel had reached
THE BARRIER 15
home, or, rather, the modest story-and-a-half
villa on Westgate Bay Avenue> with its tiny-
garden in front and strip of lawn in the rear,
which her mother had rented for the season. She
ran quickly up the stairs to their little sitting-
room, with its wide bay-windows opening on the
esplanade, where she found her mother carefully
taking down from the closet her dainty white
evening gown. The look of motherly solicitude
which often cast an anxious shade over Mme.
LimerePs brow lighted up on Marie's entrance.
'' Good-evening, mamma," she cried, embra-
cing her. '^Did you see little sister at the con-
"Yes, dear, and found her well."
^'Pauvre cherie! I have deserted her to-day!
Ah! I see that you have a letter from Paris,"
she added hastily, as she caught sight of an enve-
lope Ijdng on the table.
"Yes, Marie, a letter from your uncle, and a
somewhat strange letter it is."
"Ah! let us see it," and as Marie spoke she
and her mother seated themselves, with the same
supple grace of movement, side by side on a
couch in the window where, in the half light from
a lamp behind them, they appeared like a pair of
They did not begin to read at once.
"F61icien has passed his examination and taken
high rank," remarked Mme. Limerel.
"How delighted I am ! He deserves it. He has
worked so hard to fit himself for a diplomatic
career. And how my uncle has worked to help
16 THE BARRIER
him on! How many dinners he has given to his
^'Yes, and if it had been the giving of dinners
only! If he had not sacrificed his convictions to
"What of it, mamma? He has tried to turn
himself into another man to serve his son, and it
appears that the operation has proved a success.
I am not in raptures over the news, but I am well
content. Do you not believe me?"
Mme. Limerel let the hand that held the let-
ter drop into her lap and gazed at her daughter
for a moment — ^the brief space a mother requires
to read the face of her child — ^then having found
what she sought there and dispelled a passing
doubt, she smiled.
The only thing this mother had retained from
a happy past was her tender way of smiling at her
children. She might still have been pretty had
she cared to be so, but she wished to appear young
only in the eyes of Marie and Edith. At this
moment, however, the likeness was striking be-
tween mother and daughter. Both had the same
smooth forehead, shaded by masses of dark brown
hair, breaking into little ripples like tendrils of
gold; both had the same beautiful brows with
their perfect arch, the same white skin hardly
tinged by the colour that glowed rich and warm
beneath. They had the same clever, sensitive
lips, Florentine in their long curves, Parisian in
the upward tilt at the comers, the same proud
glance never devoid of thought, all these signs
indicating, under the mere physical resemblance,
THE BARRIER 17
equal gifts of mind and heart. The girl, however,
was taller and far more robust than her mother,
though as they sat nestling close to one another
the difference was not apparent.
''Well,'' said Mme. Limerel at last, "why don't
you read your uncle's letter? "
There was no change of expression in the girl's
face, no movement stirred her outward tran-
quillity, but something of her inward radiance
was withdrawn, like the tide ebbing back from
the sands, as she answered :
"I can easily imagine all he says."
''You expected this letter then?"
"Not actually, but it does not surprise me."
"It does, in fact, concern you," said Mme.
Limerel, whereupon Marie began reading rapidly.
M. Victor Limerel first entered into full par-
ticulars regarding hjis own health, that of his
wife, and of their son F61icien, before proceeding
to announce that the latter had passed his dip-
lomatic examination ^with honour. Marie's look
became more absorbed as she turned the page and
read: "F^licien is now a man; he ha^ a profes-
sion and all the qualities that insure success. We
are therefore disposed, his mother and I, to urge
him to marry. He has always declared that he
would take this step as soon as he had entered on
his profession. The moment has therefore ar-
rived and the question is: Whom shall he marry?
You can readily believe that I have given the
subject deep consideration, and that our difficulty
is simply one of choice.
"I desire, in fact I am determined, that he shall
18 THE BARRIER
make an advantageous marriage, and you know
me too well to think I would hesitate to define
what I mean by this. I mean a wealthy marriage ;
one which will include those social and family con-
ditions which we are entitled to look for, but,
above all — ^a fortune. I have laboured too hard
all my life not to desire a reward at last in the
happiness of my son. My wife, I will not deny,
would be less exacting, being, as you know, a per-
son of sentiment.
''Why are you not in Paris, my dear Madeleine?
I should be so glad to talk over this important
matter with you, and appeal to your sound judg-
ment. We do not always agree on minor questions
but I feel confident that you would support me
in this. You have too much experience of life,
too much affection for F^licien, for me to doubt
that your counsel in this juncture would be wise
and disinterested. You would also have great
influence with my wife, and probably with my
son as well.
''When are you coming home? I hope you
are not proposing to lipger for ever on the shores
of the English Channel. Reassure me on this
point, and give our best remembrances to our
nieces, who are, doubtless, as rosy and blooming
the one as the other. Six weeks at Westgate!
Shall we recognise Marie after such an absence?"
^'Well, what do you think, dear?''
"That my uncle is an excellent man of business,
and as such feels so superior that he regards
other people as simpletons. That is so plain that
it stares one in the face."
THE BARRIER 19
'^Tell me your whole thought, Marie, so that I
may see whether we have drawn the same con-
" I am sure of it. They are attempting to marry
F61icien. But my cousin shows no enthusiasm
for the veiy rich bride they have provided for
him. He is making objections and my uncle
counts on us to overcome them."
''He is in love elsewhere?"
''It is more than possible."
Mme. Limerel laid her hand on Marie's arm,
their eyes met and their souls in them.
"Marie, has F61icien ever told you that he
loves you? "
"Never plainly. Between cousins one never
knows; at least for a long time. They are a genus
apart, half-way between brothers and lovers.
But he has always treated me with affection and
he was very sad when we parted. That is why I
think he loves me. His father seems to think so,
"Well, dear child, if F61icien were to tell you
he loved you, would you marry him?"
The girl rose: she was charming in her blend-
ing of youthful gravity and emotion, of feelings
half acknowledged and half resisted. The scene
suggested by her mother's question rose before
her. She heard the words of tenderness, she
saw the eager, troubled face of the man who was
uttering them. But a sovereign power wrestled
with this vision; a certain influence — strong, sub-
tle, noble — spoke other words and penetrated
deeper into this young soul.
20 THE BARRIER
'"There would be a very serious question to
settle between us first/' she replied. Her mother
gave a sign of assent. She must have felt com-
plete confidence in the rectitude and strength of
character of this daughter of twenty. She did not
seek to question Marie further, but merely said:
"As to family ties, do we really constitute one
family? We visit each other frequently, and
dine together at intervals, but what S3anpathy is
there between us as regards essentials? We man-
age to avoid open quarrels, but is there not a con-
stant sense of inward irritation on both sides?
Are there not heated discussions when we meet,
and mutual reproaches? The trouble is, that we
are united merely by convention and regard for
society. And I believe it is so in most families,
and that friendship and congeniality of mind
make the true kinship."
At this moment the sound of the Japanese
gong, violently struck by their little maid to
summon them to dinner, broke off the conver-
This was the first time that Mme. Limerel and
Marie had spent a summer in England during
the three years that the younger daughter had
been left at school there; and the reasons that
had led them to permit themselves such an ex-
travagance were characteristic of the logic and
thrift of the old French bourgeoisie in the pur-
suit of pleasure. Mme. Limerel had been left
a widow at twenty-eight, by the sudden death
of her husband, ,.a captain of artillery, who had
been killed by the explosion of a powder-maga-
THE BARRIER 21
zine. In her bereavement she had immediately
left the southern city where she was residing witik
her husband, and returned with her two little
daughters to Paris. There her fortune, though
not large, had enabled her to live according to
her tastes: to entertain her friends modestly, to
spend freely for her charities, and to indulgj'for
many years in one luxury which she had now
resigned — ^a carriage of her own. This "equipage,"
as it was laughingly styled by M. Victor Limerel,
himself an ardent motorist, had long traversed the
streets of Paris like the relic of a former age,
calling up to the eyes of those who saw it pass
the vision of a portly, powdered dowager seated
therein, very unlike its actual occupant. It was
a coupl from a once fashionable maker, Imed with
quilted garnet satin and drawn by a dapple-gray
mare, maternal of eye, movement, and shape,
which trotted solidly along the boulevard, pre-
senting a majestic breadth of chest to the gaze
of indifferent Paris.
But within the year Mme. Limerel had decided
to give up the "equipage," to sell the ancient
mare, and discharge Joseph, the old coachman,
and had announced her intentions to Marie in
these words :
"I shall take cabs in future, my dear child, and
you and I will travel."
Accordingly the new regime had been inaugu-
rated by this trip to Westgate-on-Sea, and the
hiring of a villa for the season.
The little town of Westgate,. having no poor
population of its own and frowning upon excur-
22 THE BARRIER
sion parties, flourished as happily upon its peace
and seclusion as other resorts upon their crowds
and noise. There were few passers along the tree-
shaded avenue as the two ladies started for their
customary evening walk, but the bay-windows of
the small villas were all brightly lighted, and
the family parties within were plainly visible,
enjoying their after-dinner coffee and evening
A sea-breeze was blowing and the air was cool,
and sparkling with the tang of brine. Great
veils of mist hung vertically over the sea as if
suspended from the stars, wrapping earth and
sea together in their diaphanous folds. Mme.
Limerel and Marie follow^ the path that skirts
the shore, winding up from the beach to Ledge
Point, between the smooth lawns of the more
luxurious villas. Both women loved this lofty
outlook over the mouth of the Thames. At in-
distinguishable distances in the mist, the gray
floor of the bay was streaked with foam from the
tracks of countless vessels, and twinkling clusters
of lights here and there marked the fleets lying at
anchor, men-of-war, fishing boats, or great freight-
ers waiting for the tide to carry their cargoes to
the docks of Chatham and London.
Farther still the electric lights on Margate pier
illuminated a narrow stretch of sea and revealed
a fantastic palace, whose pillared portico and
domes of fire seemed to be floating on the water.
Mme. Limerel was in the habit of thinking
aJoud when alone with Marie, the sympathy
which united them leaving to each perfect free-
THE BARRIER 23
dom of opinion, while their mutual understand-
ing made sUence no barrier between them.
''I am growing tired of this English comfort,
Marie," she said; "these people care too much
about their ease."
"That may be, mamma, but we must remem-
ber that we are seeing them in their holiday sea-
son. We ought to see them at work before we
judge them. Many of the men have earned in
daring enterprises what they are spending in
luxuiy. For instance: I went with Dorothy
yesterday to call on Mrs. Milney, whose pretty
villa with the white chimneys you can see through
the trees yonder, and I discovered what was the
origin of their wealth."
"Business, of course."
"Yes, but a business carried on in Honolulu.
Their salon is hung with lovely water-colour
sketches of the scenes amidst which their fortune
was made. Old Samuel Milney, whom we see
every afternoon setting out for the golf-links
with his groom, is spending in sport the rem-
nants of a physical vigour which has resisted
thirty years of plantation Ufe in Oceanica. Two
of his brothers are out there now, and his nephew
is going soon to join them. Yes, they have a
right to feast as they shot their own game and
often at great hazard to themselves."
"You love them, child, you might as well con-
"I understand them, or at least I am begin-
ning to do so, which is not quite the same thing,
24 THE BARRIER
"You certainly understand them far better than
"That is because you do not play tennis,
mamma; and you decline teas, while I go wher-
ever I am invited, and am growing quite used to
this social freedom."
"And how do they really strike you, these
"As very like ourselves, mamma."
"No paradoxes, dear. Every book we read
tells us the contrary. Like us, indeed!"
"Not in their habits, of course, but in them-
selves, the men especially. I assure you I have
already encountered several Normans among
them/which is, perhaps, not surprising, but aIsS
more Gascons than you would think possible, a
few dull Auvergnats, not so many Parisians, cer-
tainly, but one or two. Indeed, manuna, an
Englishman who has travelled is often one of
the finest types of men."
"Ah, yes, Marie, but how French you appear
to me when I see you in the midst of them!"
"I feel so, too "
"But you do not feel as I do, I am sure. At
this very moment I am pining for our Avenue
d'Antin apartment, and the thought of hearing
the Montrouge tram-car pass once more seems
to me like a bright dream."
"Your dream will be realised before long, dear-
est, we are going back so soon. For my part, I
shall miss all this a little. Look out yonder now I "
They had reached the end of the ledge where
the path turned to descend. Beyond them
THE BARRIER 25
stretched the curving Knes of Westgate and the
adjoining beaches festooned along the western
coast with their chalk cliffs palely outlined against
the starlit sky. The incoming tide filled the night
with its murmur, and swayed the grasses along
the cliff's edge.
Mme, Limerel raised her arm and pointed out
the circle of costly villas fringing the shore.
*'The most interesting thing in the world," she
said, ^^is the human soul. How many souls have
you discovered during the six weeks you have
been plashing and talking with these idle English-
men and women? "
^'I have divined a few."
''That is something. Who are they?"
"There is little Dorothy for one. Her inner
nature is as clear as a fountain."
"What? That well-bred cow-boy I He was
wonderful in the tournament to-day, you tell me.
But you believe that he has a soul? You are
sure of it?"
"Yes; a troubled soul, mamma."
"He has confided in you, then. Mademoiselle?"
A light laugh answered her first, then the truth-
ful lips resumed their serious curve.
"He would have to be unhappy indeed to con-
fide in a woman. No, We have exchanged nothing
but tennis balls. But I have heard from Dorothy
that he and his father do not agree, at least there
have been heated discussions between them."
"And do you know the cause?"
26 THE BARRIER
''It is always so, Marie; the longer you live the
more convinced you will be that the bitterest di&-
1" sensions are not over money and material things,
but involve souls and consciences. I often say
to myself that there has never been a time so
theological as ours, so stirred to its depths by
opposing spiritual forces. Where is there a fam-
ily, whether of believers or sceptics, that lives in
*' There is ours, dear, you and I and Edith."
'Toor darling! She must be asleep at this
*'Not yet, seel The light in her window is still
They had now left the shore road behind them
and were returning by a path that crossed the
fields. In the distance before them rose the roofs
and turrets of the convent '*Des Oiseaux," the
home of France in exile.
''That is another cause for regret at leaving
Westgate," pursued Marie, "that we must leave
Edith behind. The child grows more winning
"Does she not? And she is growing more at
home here, too, and appreciates the sacrifice we
are making in order to keep her in this pure air
where she is gaining strength in body and mind —
our little Edith, so tall and slim and fair."
"While I am so tall and slim and brown."
"She is like her father."
' ' See ! Her lamp is out at last. Edith is asleep
beneath her white curtains. Sister No6mie has
THE BARRIER 27
just glided by in her felt shoes like a soft shadow,
and put out the light."
The pale gleam from the second-story win-
dows of the convent had indeed vanished. The
thoughts of the mother and elder sister still hov-
ered about the sleeping child as they pursued
their quiet way homeward through the starlight,
these two who loved each other with an almost
equal love, since one was a mother and the other
had not yet given her heart.
The following day, in the drowsy stillness of an
English Sunday afternoon, an automobile stopped
before the door of the villa, and the two French
ladies stepped into it, Mme. Limerel, in defer-
ence to her late '^equipage," insisting that the
chauflfeur should drive slowly. After crossing a
scantily wooded, highly cultivated plateau whose
distant slope dipped on either hand to the shores
of the bay they descended into a grassy hollow —
a sort oiF channel long ago abandoned by the sea,
and now filled with rich pastures divided by wire
fences; they next passed a chain of low hills,
some densely wooded, others given over to the
plough, across whose dry stubble the winds drove
the dust in clouds, like spray off the waves. After
crossing the last of these hills the limousine turned
into a wide avenue shaded by lofty beeches, past
a porter's lodge as damp and moss-covered as a
forest cave, and rolling smoothly over the sanded
driveway in the twilight of the boughs suddenly
emerged before a stately dwelling, standing in
an Open space encircled on all sides by dense
28 THE BARRIER
masses of gray-green foliage. The house was a
rectangular building with many windows, the red
of its brick softened and toned by age and the
moisture of the climate, its square towers crowned
with crenelated stone battlements, the whole
effect mellowed by the misty blue distances of
the park which formed its setting.
This was Redhall, and the car having drawn
up beneath its portico Mme. Limerel and her
daughter alighted, being admitted through a long,
glazed gallery resembling a vast conservatory in
which family portraits and old china took the
place of flowers. Richly emblazoned stained
glass filled many of the long wmdows opening on
the park, through which they caught glimpses of
a party of golfers in the distance. From the
drawing-room, on the other side, came the sound
of a piano, strunmied by unskilful fingers; as the
groom threw open the door this sound suddenly
ceased, and Dorothy rose in confusion and flew
to embrace her French friend, with cheeks far more
flushed than they had been after her exertions in
"Oh, Marie! Oh, Mme. Limerel! I play so
badly," she cried as she greeted them. "I am
alone. Every one else is in the park. Lady
Breynolds has walked to the lake with the Hunter-
Brices, and Sir George is showing Fred Land his
"How entertaining that must be for Mr.
"Oh, well! does anything really entertain him,
or bore him, either?"
THE BARRIER 29
''Perhaps his colleagues do the latter."
"Yes, that is very possible. You can see
Robert Hargreave and Donald Hagarty playing
golf with the Hunter-Brice girls, and here am I.
Shall we go to meet the walking party? " and so
speaking she led the way through one of the long
windows, past the north front of Redhall and
along the high hedge which bordered the flower
gardens. Then their three figures were half lost
in the wide glades of the giant chestnut grove
whose trees were contemporaneous with the
castle and had been planted, originally, so far
apart that their branches had spread for two
centuries before meeting overhead. Last year's
dry leaves, sifted by thi winter winds, lay piled
in pale heaps upon the mossy turf beneath their
feet. After a quarter of an hour's walk they
overtook Lady Breynolds, who had brought her
guests to see her rhododendrons.
From the bank on which they stood she was
pointing out the small oval lake from whose
margin the dense foliage rose in terraces of un-
broken verdure, excluding all other vegetation
and enclosing the dull green water of the pool
with its glittering leaves and intertwined roots,
amid which the foxes found a covert. Not a bud
showed its purple hues as yet, though in other
seasons, by the end of May, these violet slopes
reflected in the water and framed by the forest
were like a vision of Eden.
'^I am sure that India has no sight so marvel-
lous as this," Mr. Hunter-Brice was saying. He
was an athletic personage, reduced by a touch of
30 THE BARRIER
gout to this moderate form of exercise, and drag-
ging one leg slightly as he walked. "I am afraid,
however, that our friend Reginald doesn't appre-
ciate their beauty; he has been quite dumb all
"Oh, he has his days," replied Lady Breynolds
hastily; ''he is usually devoted to this comer of
But as she spoke her face betrayed some in-
ward disquietude. Accustomed as she was to
self-control, she had not quite succeeded in mas-
tering her emotions, and while her voice was sub-
missive to her will, her eyes expressed a secret
Happily at this moment Dorothy's voice, clear
as the note of a skylark, caused Lady Breynolds
to turn her head and, catching sight of Mme.
Limerel and Marie, she recovered control of her
nerves and greeted them with her usual gracious
"We shall have time to make a tour of the park
before dinner," she said, "if Mme. Limerel does
not mind so long a walk. I will show you the
Highland cattle and my herd of antelopes."
Dorothy passed her arm through Marie's and
pointing out Reginald's figure pacing alone on the
shore of the lake, in the midst of the rhododen-
dron thicket, she said aloud :
"I hope you may be luckier than I, Marie. I
have not succeeded in making his lordship smile
once this morning," and in a lower tone she
added: "There is certainly something strange
going on in this house. Reginald seems very
THE BARRIER 31
unhappy, and he does not consider me a suffi-
ciently serious person to confide his woes to.
Good-evening, Hamlet," she cried as he ap-
proached them. "I am bringing you a beauti-
ful stranger who is worthy of sharing the sorrows
of the prince of Denmark."
Reginald shook hands heartily with the two
girls, and offered Dorothy a branch of rhododen-
dron bearing the first half-opened bud of the sea-
son, like a tiny pine-cone shot with flame colour.
Mrs. Hunter-Brice, who was the mother of two
unmarried girls, turned to watch this little scene
from the comedy of youth, suspecting a romance
beneath it, but Dorothy ran ahead to join the
others. Reginald lingered behind with Marie..
''I am glad of a chance to talk with you," he
said. Marie made no reply and they strolled
slowly along the avenue, while Lady Breynolds
and her companions were soon lost to sight.
The girl looked back over the sheet of water be-
hind them, dimpled with light breezes and reflect-
ing the forest in its depths. Reginald, walking
beside her, had not a glance for his companion;
his eyes seemed to be pursuing some far-off mel-
Marie could not divine what trouble he was
about to confide to her, but her innate gift of
S3rmpathy inclined her to respond fully to this
appeal, whatever it nught be.
Finally Reginald, folding his arms with a ges-
ture habitual with him when engaged in earnest
talk or discussion, began:
"Winne did not come to-day."
32 THE BARRIER
This clearly implied and Marie so understood
it: If Thomas Winne had been here to-day he
would have been the recipient of my confidence,
but since he is not at hand, I turn to you.
Without awaiting any further explanation she
answered: "He is indeed your best friend/'
"Yes," he acquiesced absently; then pursuing
his own train of thought he resumed :
"Something serious happened here this morn-
"What was it?" the giri asked.
"I refused to attend church with my father
Marie raised her eyes to her companion. As
he spoke every feature of his manly face, so calm
and regular in repose, seemed to contract and
harden, while he kept his eyes fixed on the ground.
"Excuse me, but I do not understand why
that is such a serious matter. We feel obliged,
we Catholics, to attend church every Sunday, but
you are not under the same obligation."
"No, but my father insisted and I refused."
"And what followed?"
"We have been at odds for some time already.
He is arbitrary by nature, and he has the right to
be so. I am not accusing him, you understand."
He walked on a few steps in silence, then
"This misunderstanding and lack of sjonpathy
between us has become intensified of late. The
moment is approaching when I must make up my
mind to yield to him completely, or to break
THE BARRIER 33
"You fear that he will reopen the subject?"
"Not in the same way. He never repeats
himself, but I fear that this very evening, being
Sunday, will bring matters to a crisis."
"But what can I do to help you?"
Reginald replied, with a shade of annoyance
in his tone and with his face still turned away
"I am not given to asking advice, I assure you.
I like to act for myself, on my own responsibUity.
But the problem that confronts me now is new to
me, and I feel that your advice might be of
Marie rejected the idea with a slight wave of
the hand as she said:
"Why do you not ask counsel from your
"She would not understand."
"Or from some old friend — ^Miss Violet Hunter-
Brice, for instance, or Dorothy, whom you have
known from childhood."
"No, I have chosen you because I am sure you
have an enlightened conscience."
He said this with a low laugh which did not
relax the drawn expression of his face, although
it slightly softened the harsh inflections which his
voice had assumed. Marie smiled slightly, but
the smile did not lingen "Well," she said, "you
may tell me."
But such was Reginald's reluctance at seeking
advice, especially from a woman, that he con-
tinued to walk on in silence until they reached
a bench ben«ath the trees at a point where
34 THE BARRIER
four woodland paths met. Here he motioned
Marie to be seated and took his place beside
The woods were lonely and deserted at this
hour, and wrapped in a soft mist — ^that mist
which is never far distant in the English land-
scape — but in front of them the arch of foliage
opened and revealed the sunlit meadows beyond.
Reginald leaned forward, with his hands upon
his knees and his head lower than the girl's who
sat erect and silent, awaiting his words and pray-
ing inwardly that she might make no mistake.
*' Well, this is how it all came about," he began.
''I was brought up here between my father on
the one side, very stem as it becomes a man to be,
but over stern perhaps for a father — pardon me
for sajdng this; it is necessary in order that you
may understand — on the other hand, my mother
very tender alwajrs, but absorbed in her duties as
mistress of a great place which she managed alone,
with old-fashioned servants whose outward def-
erence often hides careless indifference to their
duties, and farmers who are mere hired agents,
with none of that loyalty and attachment to the
soil which you in France doubtless imagine to be
characteristic of our great feudal estates. My
brother was much younger than I, having been
born about the time I left Redhall for Eton. So
I was brought up in this comer of old England and
on my father's Lancashire estate, much like one
of those eighteenth century feudal lords who di-
vided their time between field sports and psalm-
singing. In matters of religion I was trained to
THE BARRIER 35
exact attendance on the services of our church,
and a vigorous intolerance — ^if not of every other
form of belief — at least of Catholicism. My
parents allowed me to be brought up just as they
had been, and among my earliest reading books
were "Fox's Book of Martyrs," and "The Story
of Liberty." Do you know those two books?"
" By name only."
"Well, both represent the Catholics as blood-
thirsty persecutors and barbarians, and my father
never pronounced the word without scorn, or
spoke of Mary Tudor otherwise than as ^Bloody
Mary.' So that, while still very young, I burned
with righteous zeal against them, and wondered
how my mother could tolerate an Irish maid of
that faith beneath her roof. Forgive me for
mentioning my childish notions. I have been
completely cured of these unjust prejudices
against Catholicism. My father, however, stands
where he has always stood."
"And Lady Breynolds?"
"My mother also, but her nature is different.
My change of opinions has caused her great suf-
fering I do not doubt, but she has always defended
me to my father. She faces the world with a
smile, but with my troubles alwajrs weighing on
her heart. At this very moment I can fancy her t
pointing out her pet deer and saying, 'Lookl we
got our first pair from Lord Llandover, seventeen
years ago'; while in her heart she is saying,
* Reginald in opposition to his father, to the whole
past of our racel How can I bear it?' She suf-
fers, I know. She would not understand though
36 THE BARRIER
she would try to forgive me. I escaped from her
influence very young, at thirteen, when it was de-
cided that I should go to Eton. I had resolved
before that to be a soldier, and when I said, *I
want to enter the army; I want to fight and to
cross Africa like Stanley,' my father approved
and my mother tried to be as proud as he was
that I had chosen that career, but she found it
"I can understand how she felt."
"You see, then, how it was. I had the most
high-minded and tenderest of mothers, but we
were separated too early for any close intimacy
between us on questions of conscience, even if it
might ever have existed. Everything else we
have had in common; the tie between us has been
of the closest; it has been her pride and, at times,
her joy. The inward struggle of which I am about
to tell you has been until lately my own secret."
Marie looking across the sunlit meadow saw the
little group they had recently left returning to
the castle, and involuntarily stretched out her
hand towards them as if to say, "Why are you not
here, you to whom this troubled soul rightly
belongs?" Then her arm fell slowly to her side
and she did not speak.
"When I was at Eton," Reginald went on,
"and later at the military school at Sandhurst,
I had hours of ardent faith. The young so
natiu'ally aspire to God. I listened to sermons
by the best preachers of our Church. I found
them often eloquent and elevated in thought,
but I was conscious that the life of Christ on
THE BARRIER 37
earth was not brought near to me; that nothing
I heard seemed to make it close and imitable.
Morally I strove to follow those principles which
I had heard preached and which; it is but
just to say, I had seen practised, the chief of
them being: *Seek the truth, follow the truth,
cleave to the truth/ These lofty precepts in-
spired my will, but I felt them to be too vague
and abstract and I asked myself: Where is truth,
since my code of action is not always the same as
that of others? How decide, since it receives its
sanction merely from my own authority, and I
nmy be following a blind guide? Myhekrtsuf-
fared as well as my reason, for the Divine ex-
ample seemed rather an abstraction, as I told
you, than a hving friend."
"Your ideal seems to me a noble one."
"Do not judge too hastily or you may be dis-
appointed. I entered a Catholic church for the
first time at Famborough, near Sandhurst, and
first saw Catholic sisters at the Italian hospital
in Queen Square— those with the great white
caps you know."
"The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent."
"Yes, and the sight touched me most of all,
because purity and charity seemed natural to
them. They were not striving to be pure in
heart but simply were so, nor to be devoted to the
poor and suffering, for they were so naturally,
and with their whole being. The music of your
Church, too, and the discipline which I saw in
everything and which I knew to be the same
the world over, gave me the impression of a very
38 THE BARRIER
great and powerful organisation of which I was
not a part.
"At the same time, during the Sandhurst va-
cations, I read many controversial works, espe-
cially those undertaking to refute the errors of
Rome. But they did not free me from these
torturing doubts, as unrelenting as the fevers of
the jvmgle. Finally I went out to join my regi-
ment in India — ^my white regiment, you under-
stand — and a year later I obtained my transfer to
a native regiment, which had always been my
desire. Out there I had many days of vigorous
action without time for thought, but these were
followed by long periods of inaction given over
to haunting memories and deep musings. You
caxmot imagine these tormenting mental preoccu-
pations, you who have always lived in the quiet-
ude of faith."
"The peace, yes, but not the quietude. That
does not belong to our day."
"I mean that you have never felt called upon
seriously to defend the ideas which constitute
your bBlief. A young girl — especially among
you — ^receives her faith ready-made and does not
dream of changing it."
"You are mistaken there. If she changes her
faith less often than a man, it is because she
knows it more thoroughly and can defend it
"Then you can understand the state of a soul
which sees the faith it has inherited wavering.
For months out there in the mountains or the
jungle, with fierce native tribes about us, I strug-
THE BARRIER 39
gled to come to some settled conviction on that
question, so long debated between your Church
and ours, of the Real Presence in the sacrament.
That seems to me, to constitute the essence of
religion. Certain of the faithful among us believe
Vy^ it, but it is not authoritatively taught by our
Church, and yet I find in St. John: 'Whoso
eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath
eternal life'; and in St. Matthew: 'Take, eat,
this is my body.' Why suppress these texts?
How explain them otherwise than by the Real
Presence? During those solitary months I was
brought face to face with the dilemma which con-
stantly pressed upon my mind: If Catholicism
be false what truth is there in the other Chris-
tian Churches? Is Christianity itself an illusion
cherished by thousands of human beings? For
Catholicism appeared to me not as the object of
my own faith, still so shattered and wavering,
but as the type of Christianity at its highest
degree of energy, in its closest union with the
"And during all this time were you praying
for help? " asked Marie.
''Yes, but I have not your faith. God has not
answered me. I have destroyed the belief I once
held and have not yet attained the other. It has
become impossible to me to consider myself as
belonging to the religious communion in which I
was brought up, and at the same time when I turn
towards what I have called the highest type of
Christianity, the Roman faith, all the imagery,
all the suspicions, all the imprecations in which I
40 THE BARRIER
have been nursed rise up once more and revive
within me. I ask your pardon for sajdng this,
but you must hear it to understand my state of
mind. I think of Babylon, of the Scarlet Woman;
I recall the apostrophe of George Borrow in 'The
Bible in Spain,' where he says: Tope of Rome, I
believe you to be as malicious as ever, but you are
sadly deficient in power. You have become par-
alytic, Batushca, and your club has degenerated
to a crutch.'
''Then I am aghast at the thought that men
have endured such sufferings, waged such wars,
defied hatred, endured humiliation, have loved, *
obeyed, lifted their eyes to heaven, all for a mag-
nificent but vain illusion ! Forgive my words. ''
The serious lips which had already moved si-
lently now replied simply:
"I will pray for you."
He was not thinking of her, but of himself.
She merely replaced for him his absent friend.
The fact of her being a woman, her youth and
charm signified nothing to this man tormented
and driven by higher and more pressing concerns,
and did nothing towards modifying his stem logic
or softening its bitter expression. Nevertheless
some deep feeling now stirred within him as
Marie Limerel spoke and he answered, with his
eyes still full of trouble :
"I am grateful to you, very grateful. And
now that you know that I no longer belong to
the Church of my father, nor, indeed, to any
Church, advise me. Suppose that this evening,
or to-morrow, my father requests me to aflfirm
THE BARRIER 41
by a word or a sign my adherence to that Church,
what must I do? Where does loyalty and truth
to my own soul lie?"
He waited, drawing back a little in order to look
at the thoughtful profile of this young girl who
was about to judge him, and whose lips were to
pronounce sentence. They parted and she spoke.
'^ Why not refuse, since your conscience dictated
that course this morning? "
*^That would mean a final rupture with my
father. He will not understand or pardon my
''Your liberty of conscience in fact."
''Yes, my liberty. But in his eyes it will
appear mere blindness and ingratitude. And I
shall not even have the compensation of having
sacrificed my place in my father's affections for
a truth of which I am absolutely convinced. I
shall be merely one who says: 'I do not see truth
where it exists for you, nor do I see it clearly
elsewhere? Is it not hard to take such an atti-
tude when dictated by no positive conviction? "
"You are obliged, above all, to be true."
"You are right."
"In your place I should do as I have said.*'
Reginald was silent for a moment, then spoke
firmly and deliberately: "I will do it." He re-
mained for a while with his eyes fiixed on the
ground; then his features relaxed in obedience to
a wHl which had resumed its power, and as he
rose his voice rang out with its wonted cheerful-
ness: "We shall be late for tea and I shall have to
apologise for detaining you. Let us hasten back.
42 THE BARRIER ' '
The Misses Hunter-Brice have been wanting so
much to know you, they will be furious with me,
and one of them seems like a very vindictive
person. Miss Violet is a sort of witch."
"Yes, a witch wrapped in clouds of gossamer —
you will see."
And so the two young people hurried back
along the avenue under its roof of spreading oak
branches, trying to resume their every-day talk,
and to forget the intimate and serious words that
had just passed between them, but the deeply
moving subject they had discussed could not be
so lightly thrown aside. They walked rapidly,
talking with forced enthusiasm of the sunset,
trying to laugh and exchange light words which
seemed to say, "We are strangers again," and yet
they could not be quite the same to each other as
No one expressed the least surprise at their
prolonged absence. The golf players having now
returned, some introductions took place, but tea
was over and the little tables laden with buttered
toast and mufi^, tea-cakes, chocolate, madeira,
and sherry were set back against the wall. The
talk was interrupted by the arrival of the master
of the house with Mr. F. Land, and one of the
ladies addressing the latter asked :
"Did Sir George maintain his favourite parar
dox, that Kent is a good fox-hunting county? "
"No, I did not," asserted the baronet. "I am
growing old and reforming."
"I am sure at least that you bragged of your
THE BARRIER 43
dogs as the best pack in Kent or Sussex, superior
even to the Tickham or Lord Lecanfield's. Now,
didn't you, Sir George? And have you convinced
your friend? "
^' Convinced him I A man who understands
everything and cares for nothing, not I."
*' Nothing but books, you mean."
"Yes, his own, perhaps," and the old squire,
whose voice was hoarse with British fogs and
fox-hunting, not to speak of British pipes and
ale, burst into a resounding laugh.
The distinguished critic, familiarly known
among his intimates as Fred Land, replied geni-
"Not even those. I no longer look into my
own books for fear of finding them unreadable.
A thought only lasts a moment and is buried be-
neath the next thought, one tomb upon another.
I am much prouder, I assure you, of having.given
Lady Breynolds a recipe for tea-cake than of
writing any book."
Whatever words the great critic uttered were
belied by a lurking expression in the corner of his
eyes, around his lips, or in the lines of his fore-
head — a reserve, a contradiction, some hint of easy
indifference or sarcasm, giving the impression of a
deep and but partially understood power. This
was suggested, also, by the carriage of his head,
the imperious arch of the brows, the prominent
nose, the loose masses of hair tossed back from
his forehead like a mane. His smooth-shaven,
leonine countenance was so dominating, so vital
with intelligence that one scarcely noticed that the
44 THE BARRIER
body supporting it was below the medium height
and somewhat obese and heavy with age. His
hands, however, were still shapely and delicate,
and adorned with rings of great price. This was the
companion with whom his host was making the
circuit of the hall, stopping to greet each of the
guests in turn. The contrast they presented was
striking, for Sir George, although of a caustic
and practical mind, gave the impression of ex-
treme physical, rather than intellectual, vigour.
He was a man for whom the duties of hospi-
tality had the importance of an hereditary func-
tion, a prerogative of the aristocracy, of which he
acquitted himself with the ease due to long habit,
but not without a secret longing for the more
congenial freedom of his out-of-door life.
His appearance betrayed no symptoms of that
gradual dackening of the energies in speech and
gesture which is the forerunner of old age. He was
clad in a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers of a
rough, greenish cloth which he called his armour,
and shod with hob-nailed shoes, while his sturdy
calves were clothed in gaiters of chamois leather.
He stopped for a moment beside Reginald, who
was standing by himself in a comer of the draw-
ing-room, and measuring his son's lofty stature
with a glance of secret pride he said:
'^What have you been doing all the afternoon?
I haven't seen you since morning."
*^I have been for a walk with Mile. Limerel."
'^You couldn't do better," and with that he
resumed his circuit of the room, pausing to ad-
dress the Hunter-Brice girls with somewhat formal
THE BARRIER 45
and studied pleasantries. These young ladies were
engaged in imparting their views upon the pros-
pects of the Labor party to Fred Land, who lis-
tened with an air of patient resignation.
Sir George proceeded on his way, stopping
to joke more freely with his old crony, the tall
and attenuated Richard Hargreave, a professor of
Tamil, who spoke his own language badly and with
a decided stammer. An animated discussion
was going on between the liberal M. P. Donald
Hagarty and the aged Hunter-Brice, a Tory, a
protectionist, and the head of several railroad
corporations, and Sir George threw himself into
the contest with a zest which revealed the
bom fighter, argumentative and stubborn. His
twenty years' seniority over Lady Bre3molds
showed plainly enough in the thin-skinned, florid
countenance where the blue veins stood out prom-
inently on forehead and temples, and a certain
surly doggedness lurked in the lines around the
mouth and thin set lips, and where the small,
bead-like blue eyes twinkled beneath bristling
shaggy eyebrows. His friends said of himl
*'When Sir George dies, England will lose the
most British of her sons." He was, in fact, the
typical John Bull, a child of old England, firmly
attached to old customs, to his rank, his Church,
and all that, in his eyes, formed an essential part
of the British Constitution. He rejected all nov-
elties which conflicted with the existing scheme
of things. He was faithful to his friendships as
also to his enmities. No one beneath his roof
ever dreamed of disputing his orders, or even
46 THE BARRIER
asking for an explanation of them. He could
forgive negligence, but never lack of discipline or
what he chose to call insubordination. His faith
in his country was boundless and touching. He
read his Times daily in order to become more
thoroughly imbued with a sense of the superi-
ority of England and the progress of the empire,
and stoutly refused to recognise any defects in
his party or his nation. If by chance he dis-
cerned a slight crack in the edifice, he proceeded
to stop it up with an aphorism such as, "Have no
fear, rely upon the sound common sense of the
English people. *' He had never been seen to shed
a tear. In times of bereavement or anxiety, such
as the loss of his mother who had died at BLedhall,
or once during an alarming illness of Lady Brey-
nolds. Sir George had shut himself up in his own
rooms and spoken to no one, but when he emerged
he was seen to have altered and grown old, show-
ing the deep hold which mental suffering had upon
his stem and reticent nature.
Evening was now drawing on. Through the
long windows the distant hills and the fringe of
forest could be seen glowing in the amber light of
the sinking sun. Lady Breynolds rose, as a signal
to her guests that they might seek their rooms for
a little repose before dressing for dinner. Half
after eight saw them again traversing the bril-
liantly lighted long gallery and re-entering the
drawing-room, the men in dress suits, the ladies
in low evening gowns not all designed perhaps
after the latest Parisian fashion.
Miss Violet Hunter-Brice, for example, had
THE BARRIER 47
seen fit to swathe herself in bUlowy scarfs of sea-
green gauze, which cast strange reflections on her
neck and shoulders and her long, pale face, giving
her a studied resemblance to the fay Melusine, or
the fabled enchantress of some old romance.
Her mother, on the other hand, was wearing
voluminous puffed sleeves of some remotely
ancient fashion; but in spite of these minor eccen-
tricities of style the general effect of the toilettes,
coiffures, and jewels was one of individuality,
combined with a certain traditional elegance.
The men wore evening clothes with the same easy
air as their sporting suits, their low shoes per-
mitting a display of silken socks of varied hues,
of which some of them appeared not a little vain.
Even the great Fred Land had not disdained to
apply his intellect to the frivolities of dress. He
appeared to have refreshed himself by a nap, and
his fine face, never devoid of thought, had assumed
an added expression of malice, irony, and wilful
Marie found herself seated at diimer between
a shy youth who had nothing to say, and the
Oriental scholar, Hargreave, who was evidently
fascinated by the sea-green draperies of Miss Vio-
let Hunter-Brice on his other side; she therefore
was at liberty to observe those about her, and to
let her thoughts wander back to the confidences
she had received from the son of the house that
afternoon. Since their return from the walk he
had not addressed a word to her nor appeared
conscious of her presence. She could see him
now at the farther end of the table chatting with
48 THE BARRIER
Dorothy, his usual quiet gravity unclouded by
any shade of uneasiness, and with that apparent
impassibility of demeanour which result from
the English training, and is regarded as merely
the proper evidence of self-control. He bent
over his little neighbour with something of the
air of one of the Great Powers condescending
to a smaller principality, listening to its ap-
peals for aid, and vouchsafing it some small but
precious scraps of stored-up wisdom. Then sud-
denly a gleam of youth lighted up his face, the
firm-set lips relaxed and grew dreamy, the calm
blue eyes opened wider, while varjring shades of
expression, smiling, impatient, challenging, lent
animation to his clear-cut features. Reginald's
was indeed one of the three faces at table which
evinced a strongly marked personality, the other
two being his father's and Fred Land's.
Sir George, who was doing ample justice to the
viands and the excellent wines set before him,
occasionally raised his imperious, choleric visage
from his plate to address some bantering speech
to each guest in turn, in a somewhat similar tone
to that with which he accosted his huntsmen
when riding to hounds.
Fred Land, after remaining silent during the
earlier courses, had been entertaining his neigh-
bour, the handsome Mrs. Hunter^Brice, on some
subject, doubtless of deep interest to himself,
as in fact most subjects were, and was now ready,
as was evident from the eager glances he cast
about him, to seize or create an opportunity for
addressing the whole table.
THE BARRIER 49
He was an excellent t3rpe of the imperialist
temperament, while Sir George might be described,
like the commercial companies of his native land,
as strictly *'limited,*V for while his nature was
perhaps as ardent as the other man's, it was far
narrower and more insular in all its manifestations.
"Doubtless, Lady Breynolds," Hargreave was
sajring, "Dimitri Keiromenos'« book on contem-
porary Greek writers is a painstaking work."
"The epithet is poor but just," remarked Fred
"Is it in English?" inquired Sir George.
"No; it is not translated yet."
"Then I shall postpone not reading it until it is.
Bless me, what a waste of timel The world
would get on just as well if no such books existed."
"Plato made the same observation in regard to
the poets," replied Mr. Land, "and we may cheer-
fully echo it concerning Keiromenos's bookf There
are countries too small to support a literature of
their own, and modem Greece is one of them.
But as to literary art in general, my dear Sir
George, it is the leading power in a state, more
important than its navy or its commerce. No
country is really great which has not received its
patent of nobility from literature. There are
peers among nations, Sir George, and baronets
and gentlemen, just as there are hod-carriers and
"You believe in the power of the literary class,
" If I did not I should certainly not belong to it. "
"Well answered! but if that is the case, why are
60 THE BARRIER
you always attacking it? You have not spared
one of our leading novelists."
"That is because I love them, Sir George. I
warn them, I give them good advice gratuitously.
I am the whipper-in of their corporation. Besides
I haven^t attacked them oH. You exaggerate my
Several women's voices were raised in protest,
and Lady Breynolds laughingly named a couple
of famous authors whom Land had handled mer-
cilessly, while Mrs. Hunter-Brice and Dorothy
added two or three more names, to the intense
satisfaction of the critic whom nothing gratified so
much as evidences of his unpopularity. He re-
peated the names of his victims slowly, rolling
them on his tongue as if he were tasting a delicious
"It may be so," he observed. "I admit that
several of the writers you mention may have fared
rather badly at my hands."
"What is it you reproach them with?" asked
Hargreave. "More than one of them has style,
an easy, flowing style."
"l^es, they write as they talk. That is what
you mean, is it not? A very good way, my dear
fellow, if one happens to talk well."
Whereupon the critic poured forth an amusing
diatribe on modern English prose, callmg it the
language of the turf and the counting-room, a
speech which has ceased to ring with the reso-
nance of verse. Then suddenly breaking off in the
midst of a sentence and striking a graver key:
"You ask me what I reproach these writers with?
THE BARRIER 51
I will tell you. With refusing to open their eyes
to the perils that threaten us."
^' What perils?" queried the baronet.
At that moment the servants were setting out
a service of rare old porcelain brought from China
by some ancestor of Sir George's, one of the treas-
ures of Redhall.
^'The spirit of sedition which is infecting us,
The baronet gave a dry laugh as he turned his
twinkling blue eyes on the speaker.
''So it has been ever since Adam was in the
garden, my friend. You may make yourself easy
on that score; we are not like our neighbours,
rash and ill-balanced — I beg your pardon,
Madame. I have always put my faith in the
sound good sense of the English people, and I
have never been disappointed. What new peril
have you discovered? The agitation of the
masses? It has always been the same, more or
less. What do you fibad that is new?"
"It is no longer an agitation for mere material
betterment," said Hargreave.
''It has become political," added Fred Land.
"And religious," said another voice.
All eyes were turned towards Reginald Brey-
nolds, who spoke with no thought of uttering
paradoxes or making agreeable conversation, but
as if on the defensive, impassive as usual, with
head thrown back and eyes seeking a contra- .
diction, much as he looked for a ball on the re-
bound on the tennis-court, with the same tension
of mind and forward poise of the body.
62 THE BARRIER
Sir George frowned impatiently.
''What nonsense you are talking, Reginald/'
he said. ''The workingmen are not stirred up
about creeds. The shilling takes the place of
honour in all this business. I don't see your
"I am not speaking of popular demonstrations
of a social or political nature. For those I feel a
''Natural, you sayl I don't feel it. If it were
natural I should feel it, too."
"If you would only allow him to explain him-
self," murmured Lady Breynolds.
"There is something besides," pursued her son
in a vibrating voice. "A spirit of disorder and
evil which exists in every country — ^among us, too.
I see it plainly. It is a conspiracy against the
soul, seeking to drag it down — ^a rage against all
that raises mankind, what I call the essential revo-
lution. I sometimes think that if England is ever
attacked by the masses, it will be because of the
eucharist which has been seen lifted upon her
"Poet," broke in Fred Land. "You are a
genuine poet, Reginald, and poetry carries us
"Hitherto our country has been left to its
spiritual torpor," he puiued, "but she is now
turning towards the divine, and hence this war
against the new spirit which is filling her. That
is my belief."
"He is not a poet, my dear fellow," said Sir
George aside to Fred Land; "he is a madman.
THE BARRIER 53
Tell me this, Reginald, is it papistiy which you
"I cannot say out of what truths the supreme
truth is made, I do not know by what name it is
called. But for me the religious question takes
the lead of all others in the life of the people as
well as of the individual. I believe that the
spirit of Christ has never been so present in the
world as now. Though his name is less often
pronounced, it is implied in every great move-
ment whether in love or hate. I believe that this
new spiritual drama will end in a resurrection."
The courage of the young man who spoke out
of the depths of his heart was so simple that all
listened gravely, more or less moved. Marie
Limerel wished th&t his face were turned towards
her so that he might read her sympathy in her
eyes, but having made his answer, he now quietly
resumed his talk with Dorothy.
Fred Land, who had little taste for religious
discussions, was also bending once more over the
lady beside him. Sir George merely remarked:
"He would make an excellent parson, wouldn't
he?" But the tone in which he said it showed
that his annoyance was keen and his resentment
A general effort on the part of the guests was
powerless to restore the commonplace tone of the
previous conversation. Sir George was in greater
haste than usual to catch Lady Breynolds's eye,
whereupon host and hostess rose simultaneoudy,
and the ladies left the dining-room, escorted to the
door by the baronet, while the men all stood,
54 THE BARRIER
watching the softly tinted floating draperies gather
like a cloud in the doorway and disappear.
As Sir George resumed his seat, the butler
brought a fresh bottle of port and a silver case
in which lay piled, in separate compartments,
Turkish, Egyptian, and Russian cigarettes.
Their glasses refilled, the men drew closer
around Sir George, their voices assuming an
easier tone, expressive of a slight relief from con-
straint which they would have been loath to ac-
knowledge. Fred Land, apprehensive as to the
temper of his host, and wishing to ward off any
chance of a quarrel between father and son, has-
tened to rally Robert Hargreave on the subject
of certain a8l)ersions which the newspapers had
lately cast upon the state of morals in the great
universities. The scholar took up the cudgels
in behalf of these institutions, supported by
Hunter-Brice, who had been, in his day, a bril-
liant student at Eton and Oxford.
Reginald sat like one pursuing his own train of
thought, who catches the sound but not the sens^
of the talk around him. Sir George, sitting very
erect, with his eyes obstinately bent upon the
goblet before him, glowing with the tawny hue of
the wine and reflecting the gleam of the candles,
seemed, contrary to his custom, to be sunk in
reflection. Suddenly Reginald, who was watch-
ing him intently, saw him raise his glass with a
rapid movement to the level of his eyes, and on
seeing the gesture turned pale. "To-day is Sun-
day," said Sir George, "and in accordance with
the old English custom among friends, I offer
THE BARRIER 55
two toasts." He paused a moment, holding his
glass with a steady hand, then added: ''Gentle-
men, the king, "
Every glass was raised in response, forming a
crown held aloft by the hands of seven loyal Eng-
lishmen; then the glasses being emptied, at a
sign from their master the servants refilled them.
With a more deliberate gesture Sir George raised
his again and said with greater emphasis, ''And
now the Church;" This time every glass save one
was raised in honour of the Church of England,
and Sir George, without putting his to his lips,
continued to hold it high and to gaze straight
before him, though the whole current of his blood
swayed to his right hand where sat the one whose
glass was still untouched.
Several of the men who had begun to drink
paused, only old Hunter-Brice quaffed his port
to the dregs and murmured "Excellent," but in
so low a tone that the word dropped unnoticed in
Every movement ceased; Sir George^s ruddy
face had turned livid, the tawny liquid in his
wine-glass trembled and two drops fell. Then he
lowered his arm, set the glass back on the table,
and without bending his head closed his eyes.
Every one glanced stealthily or boldly at Regi-
nald Breynolds, whose youthful countenance was
rendered impassible by his will, and whose hand
was still stretched out with fingers apart as if to
grasp the crystal stem of his wine-glass. The
baronet, without a glance at him, pushed back his
chair violently and exclaimed.
56 THE BARRIER
"Let us go."
Then suddenly recovering himself, he seemed
to realise that he was neglecting his duties as a
host, and passing his hand across his brow he
attempted to smile as he added:
"Excuse me, my friends, I was forgetting that
you had not smoked."
He struck a match and held it out towards
the cigarette of his nearest neighbour. A dead
silence followed while the tobacco caught fire, but
the friend did not raise the cigarette to his lips,
and as the match burnt out the men all rose.
Out of respect for himself and his guests Sir
George had controlled his anger, but he could
not obliterate all traces of those cruel moments
which had strained his nerves beyond endurance,
and stirred his pulses to fever heat.
On seeing him enter the drawing-room the
ladies waiting there divined that there had been
a conflict between father and son, and that neither
had yielded; and while pursuing their chat on
feminine themes — ^those airy nothings upon which
they could talk without thiiiing — all were secretly
thrilled and agitated at the sight of this old man,
evidently wounded to his heart's* core. Impatient
as they were to learn what had taken place, they
took pains to raise their voices and to carry
on a still more animated and futile conversation,
under cover of which they contrived to inter-
change whispered comments and to direct furtive
glances from time to time at Sir Greorge and at
The former immediately on his entrance had
seized his friend, Fred Land, by the arm and
drawn him into the recess of a window at the
farther end of the vast, brilliantly lighted room,
and while he remained standing there, with his
eyes fixed in a vacant stare, the critic with a
58 THE BARRIER
zest which did not appear forced, was pouring
into his ear a narrative of youthful exploits in
which they had both taken part. ''Yes, George,'^
he was saying, ''don't you remember that you
had told the groom to walk the horses up and
down outside while we, a party of hungry and
worn-out hunters, poured into the inn?" From
time to time the baronet's lips parted as if to say,
"Go on, the hour is nearly up," but he gave no
other sign of attention. Lady Breynolds con-
tinued to perform her duties as hostess in ap-
parent unconsciousness, moving from group to
group with her usual quiet dignity and gracious-
ness, as if seeking to prolong for one evening more
the tradition of Redhall's happy days.
Reginald, seated at the opposite end of the
room, was showing Cuthbert Hagarty the big
portfolio of sketches in crayon and water-colours
which Sir George had brought home from China
and Australia. He had not once approached
Marie. His purpose, stimulated by a woman's
word, kept the track he had marked out for it;
and if he suffered in consequence this was no time
to show it. Among the whispered comments
exchanged between the guests two recurred like
a refrain: "Reginald did all that loyalty required
of him," and "Sir George can settle the matter
Mme. Limerel and Marie departed early. Their
baggage was brought down and placed on the
car which awaited them at the door, the fur
robes were wrapped around their knees, and the
door closed upon them with a sharp click.
THE BARRIER 59
Dorothy, who was watching their departure
from the nearest window, tu^ed to Reginald
saying: "That is their farewell to Redhall. How
sharp and dry it sounds! And yet she was a sym-
pathetic creature, that French girL Shall you
see her again? "
''I think not," replied Reginald.
The car had soon left the park and was whirl-
ing along the country road. The weather had
changed; a south-west wind was sweeping across
the British Isles like a flood-tide without an
ebb. Except where the lower currents were bro-
ken by hills or dwellings, the tree-tops bent and
swayed before it and the foliage rustled in the
Far overhead a great bank of cloud, uniform,
dense, and black, covered two-thirds of the sky,
while in the east a few pale stars twinkled on the
edge of the storm. This cloud which spread over
many counties and was laden with the smoke of
factory towns, heavy with the dust and d6bris
of huLn wretchedn^, and the miasma arising
from crowded streets, would soon float above the
North Sea and be lost in the immensity of its
icy billows. As Marie watched it, her thoughts
were busy with Reginald's confidences and the
subsequent stormy scene to which she had heard
Finally Mme. Limerel spoke: "Your long walk
with Reginald Breynolds this afternoon must have
given you a clew to the scene which took place
after we left the dining-room. It seems to have
been an intense and moving one."
60 THE BARRIER
"Yes, he told me he feared something of the
sort; but I did not understand at the time what
"I am not asking you to betray his secrets,
"They are indeed not mine, mamma. If they
were you should be told all."
After a pause Mme. Limerel added: "He re-
minds me of the portraits of Cardinal Newman
in his youth."
"Really! That strikes me as more just than
the comparison you made the other day — do you
remember — ^the cow-boy?" Marie Limerel's head
stood out in delicate relief against the gray lining
of the limousine as she leaned back, shrouded in
her veils and with half-closed eyes. Her mother
continued to gaze out at the landscape as they
whirled by, at the writhing shrubs which in the
uncertain light looked like tethered animals strug-
gling to break loose. To the north and west the
lighthouses and harbour beacons, the gleaming
line of quays and jetties, formed a great half-circle
of light beneath the canopy of cloud sweeping
out towards the open sea.
At Redhall the evening had ended early. The
other guests were all staying in the house, and
shortly after eleven the lights were extinguished
in the drawing-room, and the ladies having re-
tired, the men had betaken themselves to the
smoking-room, a spacious apartment brightly
lighted and lined with books.
The official curfew having sounded they en-
THE BARRIER 61
Some of them had already divested themselves
of formal evening dress. Fred Land had merely
substituted easy slippers for his patent-leather
pumps, but Hunter-Brice had assumed a complete
suit of chamois-coloured flannel, and the Honour-
able Donald Hagarty, M. P., had exchanged his
black coat for a velveteen shooting-jacket. The
younger men were still in evening dress, and all
were smoking, sipping whisky-and-soda, and re-
suming the easy talk and laughter customary at
Sir George, buried in a deep easy-chair beside
his old friend Hagarty, was staring into the park
and talking, as was his wont, in abrupt, jerky
sentences, between the puffs of his cigar, and with
long intervals of silence, during which both men
listened to the voices of the other smokers who
seemed to be all talking at once.
To all appearances, everything was proceeding
according to the usual routine of the house, but
no one present put any faith in this outward calm,
and from time to time anxious glances were di-
rected towards the old lord of Redhall, while
murmurs of restrained sympathy encompassed
A little past midnight, as Fred Land, Robert
Hargreave, and young Cuthbert Hagarty ap-
proached the baronet to bid him good-night, he
signed to Reginald, who was following them, to
remain behind. For some moments he continued
his talk with the worthy Hagarty, contesting
point by point that liberal M. P/s views upon the
naval progranmie of the admiralty.
62 THE BARRIER
Their cigars had finally gone out and Mr. Hag-
arty was about to light another when Sir George
stopped him, and handing him a gold-ringed
Havana, said gravely: ''Take that with you, my
friend; you can smoke it in your room. I have
some business to settle with my son to-night."
Recalled to a consciousness of the family drama
which he had momentarily forgotten, Hagarty
started, and stared at the cigar, twisting it in his
fingers, while he asked himself whether he might
urge his old friend to show indulgence towards his
son and heir. But his natural reserve and dread
of interfering in the affairs of others prevailed,
and he contented himself with grasping the hand
of father and son in turn before he withdrew,
leaving them alone. As his footsteps died away
along the corridor, Sir George, steadying himself
by grasping the arms of his chair, turned slowly
round to face Reginald, who, seeing that his father
was about to speak, drew back a step or two.
The baronet raised his head with a sudden move-
ment and gazed fixedly at his son; then his thin
lips parted and in a bw tone, as if to show his
perfect self-possession, he spoke:
"I cannot remember a sadder day than this."
''Nor I, father," answered Reginald.
"Nor a more disgraceful one."
"There you must permit me to differ from you."
"What you have done is disgraceful. You have
refused to pledge the prosperity of the Church,
here under my roof, on this land granted us by
Queen Elizabeth. Never, do you hear, since
toasts have been drunk at Redhall, has such an
THE BARRIER 63
affront been offered our house by a stranger as I
have endured to-night from my own son, in the
presence of my guests. What have you to say?
How do you justify yourself for this refusal, follow-
ing upon that of this morning?''
^' You know my respect for you, father "
"No idle words, if you please. Your reasons,
if you have any."
"I have one — ^the same for both refusals. I
have been studying religious questions »
"That matters nothing to me. You may be-
lieve within yourself whatever you like, but in
England the Anglican Church is a national institu-
tion, and respect for it is a duty we owe the State.
An affront to the one is an affront to the other.
To deny the Church is to deny one's country."
"There again I must differ from you. The
King always — ^the Church if I can. Allegiance to
it is not imposed on one. I am free. I claim the
right of private judgment."
"Not at all! Traditions are a law and so is
family union. You may separate yourself on one
point or another from the Established Church, but
to refuse to pay honour to an essentially English
institution is a disgrace to an Englishman. One
of my race! Do you think I am a man to en-
Reginald shook his head like one who feels pow-
erless to explain his views, so widely divergent
were they from his father's. But Sir George
"Explain yourself, that is all I ask. But you
cannot get out of it by mere words."
64 THE BARRIER
"I am not attempting to get out of it. I find
myself in a position which I have been dread-
ing since this morning. I have displeased you
deeply. But I owe it to myself, before all things,
to be sincere and to let my actions accord with
my thoughts. The whole truth is that I have
changed. I am no longer bound to our Church
by ties of faith. Do not fear, however, my in-
veighing against those whp remain faithful to her
creed — ^many of them are too dear to me. But
to profess a faith I no longer hold, even by a sign
— a, false sign — ^to swear an eternal allegiance to
which no thought within me corresponds — I can
do it no longer!"
Sir George's voice rose to a higher pitch as he
retorted: "A papist then!"
^'If I were one, father, I should only be reverting
to the faith of our fathers before Elizabeth's time."
/'They had not been ennobled by their sover-
''But they were men, and freemen, and they
held the Roman faith."
"Not the English."
"Be that as it may. It was the universal
faith. Reassure yourself, however, I am not the
papist you imagine. It is that which has made
this step more difficult and, therefore, more praise-
"I do not belong to the Roman Church. I am
even far, as I believe, from adopting that faith.
I am merely separated from our Church and in a
state of painful doubt."
THE BARRIER 65
"Well, sir, I am about to make it more painful
"I do not know how that can be."
"You will soon see," and as he spoke Sir George
raised the mighty fist with which he reined in his
Irish hunters, and brought it down upon the table
with a crashing blow. "I will not suffer this
estate to descend,' on my death, to one who insults
those from whom I hold itl"
Reginald was silent.
"I must request you, Reginald, to open that
bookcase; on the lower right hand shelf you see
those volumes of the 'Laws of England,' bound in
"Look for the laws of William III. Good!
Hand the book to me."
Sir George uncrossed his legs and taking the
huge quarto stamped with the coat-of-arms of the
Breynolds upon his knees, turned the leaves with
a firm hand until he came to the "Fines and Re-
coveries Act of 1833," chapter 74. He turned
his stem old face upon Reginald, all his prodig-
ious vitality concentrated in the small blue eyes.
He was about to judge and to pronounce sentence
in the name of his house; and without seeking it
he wore on his countenance a look of secret irony,
combined with the ardent satisfaction of a loyal
judge sentencing a political criminal. He was
not avenging himself; he was the representative
and defender of Old England.
"The wording is explicit," he said. "I have
the right, and I shall act upon it, to disinherit you
66 THE BARRIER
from my estate of Redhall; which is not entailed^
and to leave it to your brother. It is only neces-
sary, you see, to register the decision in the upper
courts within six months." And far as he was
from being in a jovial mood, the old gentleman
chuckled dryly as he added: ''It will merely cost
me a tax of one shilling per seventy-two words.
Well, what do you say to that?"
Reginald, standing impassively before him,
''That you have the power to do as you say."
"And you may as well add," returned Sir
George, "that you know me well enough to be
sure that I shall do it."
"And you may also add that it is perfectly
"I have nd doubt, sir, that you think it so."
"Not at all ! It is just in itself. I will have no
changes at Redhall — ^no timber felled nor boun-
daries altered nor tenants evicted nor the ancient,
common faith abandoned. Why, the very deer
would flee the park if it had a papist master!
No, no! that shall never be."
"I must assure you once again, father, that I
have not become a Roman Catholic."
"And I must assure you that you will be one
soon. I am not a man to be deceived. I see
where you stand. But I will content myself with
your formal assurance. Promise me, Reginald,
that on the day when you give in your adherence
to the Romish Church you will give me notice,
wherever I am and wherever you may be."
THE BARRIER 67
The young man's eyes sought for any trace of
faltering; any gleam of pity or help, in those keen
blue eyes which probed, urged, commanded him.
A hard condition, he thought. You threaten a
conscience already wavering, and you are rein-
forced by all the power of nature, of old customs
and surroundings. You know how I love this
place of which you are so ready to despoil me.
But he uttered no word of this.
^'If you think it just to require such a pledge, I
will give it,'* was all he said.
''Good! I count upon it then."
These words were pronounced with the harsh-
ness of a sentence, and the expression of Sir
George's face grew more disdainful as he added :
''It strikes me, Reginald, that a journey might
profitably occupy the remainder of your leave."
"That is what I was about to propose," replied
the young officer coldly. "I had intended to
travel later, I shall now go at once."
"When do you start?"
^ "To-night, SU-."
"Very well. I must request you not to have
Vulcan harnessed, as he limped this afternoon.
My other horses are at your service." So saying
the old man rose, and without one glance or word
of farewell, left the room.
Reginald remained standing, following his
father's retreating figure until it disappeared,
then turned away and passed his hand across his
eyes, while every word and act of the day crowded
upon his mind. How could one short day have
sufliced for all these changes? His life, his future.
68 THE BARRIER
his prospects^ words so full of meaning this
morning, had grown empty now. He could have
wept over this utter ruin had not his manhood
and a life-long habit of self-restraint checked this
He approached the window and stared out into
the blue distances of the park, which lay bathed
in dew and glimmering softly in the moonlight. The
path leading to the gardener's cottage stretched
clear and white across the lawn like a streak of
silver. At the same moment he caught sight of the
head gardener himself, the stout, important,
thoroughly British William, steppmg along this
path as noiselessly as possible, all the curves
and amplitudes of his sturdy figure emphasised
by the moonlight.
He was on his way home from the servants' hall,
where he was a frequent and welcome guest, and
where it was the custom, whenever there were
guests at dinner, to celebrate the occasion by
quaffing loyaJ bumpers of port to the master's
health — ^a custom which Sir George tolerated and
paid for, along with many other time-worn abuses.
William was, in consequence, mildly tipsy and
swayed slightly on his stout calves as he has-
tened towards his pretty, thatched cott^e, em-
bowered in honeysuckle and jasmine.
What strange impulses sometimes move a man
in the depths of trouble !
Reginald threw open the window, thereby
causing William to give a guilty start. He quickly
recovered, however, on recognising his young
master, and touched the flat plaid cap which he
THE BARRIER 69
seldom removed entirely from his head, while
smiling in an embarrassed way as if not quite
sure whether he was asleep or awake.
*'Are you on your way to bed, William?"
"Yes, Master Reginald. Good-night, sir."
"Doesn't RedhaJl look pretty in the moonlight,
"Why, yes, Mr. Reginald. Redhall always
looks pretty enough to me, by night or day. I
am walking about a bit, you see, though it is
The old man's joviality increased as his eyelids
grew heavier. It was the first time since Regi-
nald's return that he had had an opportunity to
talk freely with him, as in the old Eton and Alder-
"Just fancy, Mr. Reginald," he went on, "the
old fox has littered just outside the garden-hedges.
I took care not to tell Sir George. He likes sport
well enough, but not as you do. Master Reginald.
He would have ordered me to kill the cubs. I
could have done it easily enough, but I thought
what a pleasure it would be for Master Reginald
to hunt the young foxes in October. He! he!
The little devils have already eaten more rabbits
and pheasants than they are worth, but I like to
see you galloping through the park, Mr. Reginald.
That will be in October."
"I fear not, William, but I thank vou all the
The young man watched the old servant re-
turning to his tranquil home where he would
70 THE BARRIER
sleep secure of the morrow, and attached to the
estate as firmly as its very walls. Closing the
window, he rang for his man and ordered him to
prepare everything for a journey and to give
notice at the stables.
"It will be a long journey," he added. ''This
is what you are to pack for me." And seating
himself at the table where the box of cigars and
the volume of the laws of England were still lying,
he hastily scrawled a few directions.
He then ascended the stairs, taking care to
tread lightly lest some of the guests might over-
hear him and come out of their rooms to propose
a moonlight Walk or a row on the lake, as often
happened at this hour.
He crossed the gallery leading into the left wing,
and finally paused before a door bearing the in-
scription, ' ' Princess Mary's Room. ' ' This was the
chamber where a king's daughter had slept for a
night, many years before.
As he approached, the door opened softly and
Lady Bre3molds appeared on the threshold, still
in evening dress, with a light shawl over her
''Oh, Reginaldl Is it you?" she cried. "Tell
me what has happened. I am dying of anxiety.
Come quickly and tell me that there has been no
"No, mother, only words; but those were de-
cisive ones — ^I must go."
"That was what I feared. You have deserved
"I have decided it."
THE BARRIER 71
"My poor, poor chUd!" Tender and terrified
she opened her arms, with a splendid gesture, an
unconsciously tragic figure, as she enfolded her
tall son and drew him down beside her to listen to
his story, stifling her own disapproval, the re-
proaches which her conscience inspired — since she
was as firmly attached to the Established Church
as her husband — ^but at this moment she hearkened
to her motherly pity only.
At her side Reginald gave way to his grief. He
shed no tears, but whereas with his father he had
remained coldly respectful, alone with her and
about to leave her, he made no attempt to hide
his sorrow. He knew that as her cWld he in-
spired her with the tenderest pity, although his
anguish of soul woke no responsive echoes in
hers; that his disinterested and honourable mo-
tives were ignored by her who loved him, who
was his mother, and who could only say:
"My Reginald, how can you be so cruel to your-
self as well as to us? "
He yielded his hands to her fond clasp and in
her heart she felt a secret pride that her handsome
son, this splendid man-child who towered a head
above her, was leaning to-night upon her maternal
support as he had done in his childhood. She made
no attempt to dissuade him from his purpose,
knowing well that Reginald's resolves were not
easily shaken. But she entered into all the details
of hi8 proposed journey with the instinct of one
who has been a traveller, and for whom the names
of remote lands and cities call up definite associa-
tions. She was full of motherly anxiety for him.
72 THE BARRIER
"How will you live, my child?" she cried.
"You have those savings which I used to reproach
you for laying by?"
"Yes. I shall spend all that now, and I hope to
ask nothing from any one."
"But I can help you a little, Reginald, and I
shall, for your father has never objected or even
questioned me as to the use I make of my own
money. Very little it is, as you know."
Her beautiful eyes, which were encircled by
dark rings from the fatigue, emotion, and fever of
the night, filled with tears as she sounded the
depths of this sudden catastrophe, whose causes,
alasl stretched so far into the past. She wept
outright when Reginald admitted that Redhall
might pass away from Sir George^s first-bom.
"Ah! how can I defend you when it is you who
have condemned yourself? And I shall no longer
be here when that wicked act of folly is accom-
"What do we know of the future?" he an-
swered. "I will not be the slave even of a for-
tune, that is certain! But I am done now with
theories and discussions. Beyond my promise
and the present moment I affirm nothing. Only
assure me that my name shall be spoken here
sometimes, when you are alone, mother, or among
my friends. And send me news often of Redhall."
He rose as he said this, and tried to smile, a
grievous effort sometimes.
"Nearly two in the morning!" he exclaimed.
"Poor mother! what a wretched night you have
THE BARRIER 73
''I would pray for many more like it, to have
you still here, Reginald. When will you come
^'When my heart has changed — or yours and
*'Alas!" And so they parted, but first Lady
Bre3molds insisted that her son should carry away
some renunders of his home, things which had
belonged in his own room or in the nursery, and
she pUed his anus up with photographs, a water-
colour sketch, two or three books, and a few de-
votional pictures with texts. At three o'clock
the carriage stood before the door, with lanterns
lighted. The air was chill and day was dawning
in the infinitude of space between the earth and
stars. The meadows gleamed pale around the
castle and the shrubs and hedge-rows stood out
like the delicate traceries on a moss-agate.
Reginald made a sign that the carriage was to
follow him and walked slowly down the avenue,
drawing his hands through the dewy shrubs as he
passed, and laying his fingers with a caressing
touch on the pendent branches of the trees from
which the dew-drops trickled with a soft, dripping
sound. ''Thanks," he murmured, ''dear trees of
At the turn in the path where the denser foliage
was about to hide the walls of Redhall, he turned
and faced the castle, with a lingering gaze over the
slopes of lawn, the encircling trees, and the ave-
nues opening like misty aisles into the forest
beyond; then with a last look at his mother's
window he hastened on to overtake the carriage.
74 THE BARRIER
There was no trace of tears on his fair young face,
but his heart was weeping silently.
'* You will inform madame as soon as she comes
in that I am waiting for her in my study.'*
^' And I am at home to no one else.'*
M. Victor Limerel wore at this moment his busi-
ness expression, whicr^ered entirely from that
which he wore in society. His formidable bull-
dog jaw and protruding underlip gave his face, at
such times, a look of insolent strength and dogged
obstinacy, with which his eyes harmonised, promi-
nent, keen, and dark, beneath heavy bristling
eyebrows. Although past sixty he had not a
single *^hite hair, and his moustache, which
drooped at the corners of his mouth, was black
except for a slight yellowish tinge from constant
smoking. His neck was short, and below the
broad shoulders his figure dwindled rapidly and
was supported on thin, nervous limbs which bore
this ill-shaped body about briskly.
All industrial and financial Paris knew the
''Soci6t6 Fr^ngaise des Filatures de Laine," whose
principal factories were at Lille and Mazamet, and
it was known to be in a prosperous condition owing
to the exceptional ability of its owner and presi-
dent. M. Victor Limerel was a great worker in
his way, which was that of all originators. He
took in all sides of an affair at a glance, as if he
had studied it thoroughly, and he judged men in
the same way, gave definite orders and never
changed his mind. He possessed powers of com-
THE BARRIER 75
bination, foresight, and memory which would
have taxed the brains of half a dozen ordinary
men, but he endured the strain, thanks to his
capacity for throwing aside all business cares on
leaving his office or committee-room and never
allowing them to encroach on his hours of leisure.
In doing this he became absolutely common-
place; talking fluently but without a spark of
originality, his conversation being made up of
echoes from the newspapers and the current talk
of the day.
When any statement of his was contradicted
he reaffirmed it with greater empha^ when it was
for his interest to do so, and certain signs, such as'
a protruding of the jaw, the throbbing vebu in
his temples, and the nervous movements of the
fingers, betrayed the man's relentless will, his pride
in his unvarying success, and his experience of the
weakness of human nature.
This curtness in expressing his opinions was
confined, however, to subjects where his personal
interests were involved. On other questions,
and those the deepest and highest, he showed a
surprising readiness in yielding to the feeblest
opposition, and claimed credit for this as evidence
of a broad tolerance.
Many of his relations with the political world
were explicable only through this facility for
It was generally understood that he was loftily
indifferent where principles were concerned, jeal-
ous and tenacious only on personal questions.
M. Limerel had always refused to present him-
76 THE BARRIER
self as a political candidate, but he passed for a
Conservative, no one knew precisely why. His
opponents, however, recognised the conservatism
of the man of wealth rather than that of the man
His wife had formal orders to cultivate social
relations in all parties, and these she obeyed im-
plicitly, receiving people of every shade of opinion
who might be able to serve her husband in his twin
ambitions of being appointed an officer of the
Legion of Honour and a manager of the Suez
He had married a Mile. Elsa Pommeau, many
years younger than himself, the daughter of a
banker, who had brought him a large fortune,
with the additional dowry of a wealth of blonde
hair, superb shoulders, and a smile always the
same, which came at her bidding.
She was neither an ill-meaning woman nor a
nonentity, but twenty years of an unvarjring social
round had filled her with a set of conventional
ideas, prejudices, and tastes which belonged to her
world rather than to herself. She repeated
scandal without a grain of malice ; and, without co-
quetry, resorted to every device known to art to
preserve the remnants of her youth and fresh-
ness in order that she might still figure among
the vanguard of pretty women. Yet subject as
she was to her husband and to the world, some-
thing of her real self— of the woman she might
have been, enthusiastic, kind, and tender — still
survived within her. When alone or with her
husband and son^ she allowed herself at times to
THE BARRIER 77
think and feel in accordance with her true nature
and early principles, expressing herself in vague
phrases such as: '^You are going too far. I was
not brought up with such ideas as that. Do as
you please, but I cannot share your opinions.^'
This, however, was the extent of her courage.
Sometimes, at long intervals, she strayed into a
church and knelt with bowed head, sighing pro-
foundly, forming good resolutions for the future,
and commending to heaven all who were dear to
her, especially her son. Those who saw her in
this attitude pronounced her exceedingly devout,
and if she chanced to hear the expression she did
not attempt to deny it.
Such was the companion whose fortune and
conduct, whose conversation and thoughts, were
completely under M. LimerePs control. She lived
in dread of his harsh voice, his self-confidence, his
arguments, his mockery, and his bursts of anger
when she attempted to resist him; she regarded
him as a tyrant and yet she loved him. She was
not always convinced by his arguments, but since
he conmianded must she not obey and thus pre-
serve their domestic pea«e at any price?
Nothing had ever cost her so dear as the com-
plete ignoring of her natural authority on the part
of her husband in his plans and negotiations for
M. Limerel regarded this transaction as one of
the highest importance, and accordingly as his ex-
clusive affair. This marriage was to facilitate that
worldly advancement which he called a family
concern; that is, one designed for the benefit of
78 THE BARRIER
the head of the family. Among the young girls
whose fathers were men of influence he had sin-
gled out Mile. Tourette and had said to F61icien:
''There is a charming girll"
He might as well have said:
''There is a girl whose father is influential!
Baron Tourette is a power: marry his daughter
and you will be doing me a service. She is a
charming girl besides."
He was not nwstaken on these two points, but
upon another which he had not taken into consid-
Mile. Tourette was a pretty girl, rich and well
connected, but F^licien refused outright to have
his choice dictated to him. He begged his
parents to delay further steps until he had made
up his mind to be married.
"That is mere shyness," M. Limerel replied.
"The fear of not pleasing. I know you, my dear
boy. But let me introduce you to her. I feel
fairly sure what her answer will be, and perfectly
sure of yours when once you have seen her. She
F^licien had yielded finally for the sake of peace,
merely saying, "Very well, I will go with you."
Accordingly the preliminaries, discreetly con-
ducted between M. Limerel and the Baroness
Tourette, had led to the following agreement.
"Marguerite shall know nothing about it," said
her mother, "but I will take her with me to
the SaJon. You remember that huge canvas by
Wambez, of a group of Sorbonne professors show-
ing off their robes? Well, at three o'clock pre-
THE BARRIER 79
cisely we will be in front of that picture, and you
can meet us there by chance. Unless I am mis-
taken, the portraits of those old gentlemen will
serve as a becoming background to Marguerite.
The dear child will have an opportunity for a
little chat with your son, and that is all we can
do. We can insure then: meeting but not their
liking each other."
'^You will be there then?"
''At three precisely, Madame, and the result
is easily foreseen."
This was the interview from which M. Victor
Limerel had this moment returned. He had
made a point of going alone with F61icien. ''You
would spoil ever3rthing, my dear," he had said to
his wife. "Your flushed cheeks and the very tone
of your voice would betray your feelings. Leave
it all to me and when I bring him back a con-
queror, you will not regret it." He had long ago
settled that there was no place for her in his
diplomatic triumphs. He was now awaiting her
with an impatience he could with difficulty control.
At last he heard a light step on the stairs, and a
Dfioment later the handsome Mme. Limerel threw
open the door and as she entered cried breathlessly :
"Well, what about my son?" This natural cry
came from so full a heart that M. Limerel was
actually moved by it and almost forgot to re-
proach his wife for keeping him waiting, but he
exclaimed, nevertheless, with a gesture of impa-
tience: "The interview was a failure — ^an utter
failure! And all owing to you."
80 TItE BARRIER
''I have no doubt of that. As long as I live,
every failure will be owing to me. To be sure, I
was not there and you were, but that does not
matter. Tell me ever3rthing. Where did you
meet them? Oh, my poor boy, how he must be
suffering! Was it that little chit who did not
care for him? ''
^^Not at all, ma cMrey it was he — ^he alone.
How could you fancy such a thing? That is just
like you. A disappointment quite upsets your
''But tell me, tell me everything. You see I
cannot wait. Where did you meet?"
''We were standing, F61icien and I, with our
backs to that great Sorbonne picture in the long
gaJleiy. I was gazing with deep interest at a marine
view of a stormy sea, and explaining to F61icien
the reasons for my admiration, which he did not
share, but all the time I was watching for the
Tourettes out of the comer of my eye. At a few
minutes past three I caught sight of them coming
up the grand stairway. They were about to pass
us when I stepped forward. 'My dear Limerel,
is that you?' exclaimed Tourette. 'What a sur-
"How did he appear?"
"He was out of breath but as cordial as ever,
friendly even. I am sure that he favours the
match. I am used to reading men, and his
manner was unmistakable."
' ' And how was the mother? "
"Very dignified, as usual. But she had come,
and that in spite of a headache."
THE BARRIER 81
"And Mile. Marguerite? What of her?''
"She was the prettiest Parisienne there, in a
frame or out. A perfect little Greuze in a mous-
quetaire hat. She has a clever mouth, a re-
trousse nose, and sparkling eyes under long, droop-
ing lids. But you have seen her. She evidently
knew, but showed no signs of embarrassment.
Quite at her ease, lively and amusing. She led the
way with F61icien, sajdng: 'I am quite at home
at the Salon, Monsieur. Let us come this way.'
We followed, tacitly agreeing to fall a little way
behind. She talked vivaciously, raising her
pretty arm to point thin^ out to him. F61icien
hardly spoke. We iHbught all was going naturally,
but we could say nothing about it yet." And
M. Limerel proceeded to describe the interview,
dwelling chiefly on the r61e played by the per-
sonage who interested him most, namely : himself,
his diplomacy and tact, his repartees.
Mme. Limerel's ardent interest, the mute in-
terrogation of her parted lips, impressed even
him, the least indulgent of men towards what he
styled motherly sentiment. This mother, with
y^ daijj: riiigs of anxiety around her eyes, crouching
in the easy-chair by the fireside in a posture of
suspense, with no concern for her fresh toilette,
with her veil rolled back unbecomingly and her
hat awry, was no longer the handsome, expres-
sionless, blonde Mme. Limerel whom he was wont
- to dominate, but a being all quivering life and
"Yes'," she exclaimed, "I see it all — ^your meet-
ing, your walk through the gallery together. I
82 THE BARRIER
hear your words and their replies, but the end —
'^Well, when I took leave of the Baron and
Baroness Tourette in the lower hall, nearly an
hour later, and left them lingering awhile, for
form's sake, in the sculpture-gallery, I immedi-
ately-^ asked F61icien: 'What do you think of
hejr?' His reply, which is stamped indelibly on
n^^ brain, was: 'She is charming, father, for some
^e else, but I am not marrying. I warned you,
., ^''ou know.' 'And your reasons, if you please?'
A* I inquired. 'I might give you any number, but
ff one will be enough to prevent any further at-
■^ tempts like this of to-day: I have resolved to
marry no one save my cousin Marie.'"
"He said that!"
"He said just that — 'No one save my cousin
Marie.' 'Your cousin?' I replied; 'I will not per-
mit it, do you hear?' 'My mind is made up,' he
said, and upon that we came out. My dear, I
was furious. I said ever3rthing that could be
said. I pointed out the folly of marrjdng a girl
who could not bring him even four hundred thou-
sand francs, and who had no impbrtant connec-
tions, except in a circle which no longer counts for
anything. I pointed out that when a young man
wishes to make his way in the diplomatic world
he cannot afiford to begin by a blunder. I ex-
plained that there are certain obligations for
people of our fortune, that in the upper bour-
geoisie a man's choice is as strictly limited as that
of a prince, unless he means to abdicate — ^and
F61icien is abdicating. He will never 'arrive'!
THE BARRIER 83
It is like setting out on his career armed with a
prayer-book instead of a copy of Macchiavelli. I
told him all this and much besides. He merely
replied with more sentimental speeches, telling
me how lovely Marie was/'
''So she is."
"And Mile. Tourette? Is she not lovely, too?''
''But Marie has such elevation of mind, such
distinction of nature!"
"Define distinction, will you? The little TourA
ette girl is a thousand times more 'chic,' and that ^,
is distinction nowadays, ma chere. And even if "^S
she hasn't already those wonderful qualities that
F61icien is dreaming of, she is very young, and
he can form her to suit his own ideal. Is not a
husband the real educator of a wife of twenty?
Can he not refine her to any extent?"
"We are an example of the contrary, mon ami.
1 was under twenty when you married me."
"I beg of you — ^I am in no mood for jest-
"Nor I, I assure you. Nor of serious contra-
diction either. I am merely ofifering a plea on be-
half of that poor boy who is not here to defend
himself. Why do you look at me so sternly?"
M. Limerel rose, tossing down an ivory paper-
knife with which he had been slaahing the air
while he spoke, and began pacing slowly back
and forth between window Ld door, vdth his
arms folded and his eyes fixed steadily upon his
wife, who had risen, t<i, and waB evidently begin-
ning to waver.
"Because it is you who are really responsible,"
84 THE BARRIER
he replied. ''You have encouraged F61icien in all
these foolish tastes which are opposed to mine."
''We are discussing his niarriage, Victor."
"We are discussing his whole future, which he is
about to compromise. If you had not filled him
with a lot of idealistic notions which make me un-
easy about him — ^yes, yes, I repeat it, uneasy —
these notions of excessive piety, for instance "
"What do you call excessive?"
"Whatever stands in one's way, parbleuJ^
much to my regret indeed."
"I am not concerned with that. What I com-
plain of is that he is essentially romantic and
' ' Poor boy ! He has a little spark of enthusiasm
in his nature, which he inherits, perhaps, from me."
"Not at all, my dear. He is, as I say, a mystic.
I insist upon it that he lives and breathes in an
unreal atmosphere. He has a taste for pious
romance, and he imagines Marie to be a sort of
Madonna or archangel."
"He loves her."
"I call it morbid nonsense and ignorance of the
world, or pure folly, whichever you like."
Mme. Limerel, weary of contending and fully
aware of the uselessness of such discussions, re- |
sumed her society voice, and in her sweetest and ^
most amiable tones replied: "I do not wish to dis-
please you, mon ami. What do you wish me to
"What do I wish? That you should speak to
your son and dissuade him from this mad idea.
THE BARRIER 85
He will listen to you better than he does to me.
You have influence over him."
''I shall make him suffer all the more. But
since you wish it I will try my best. Where did
he go when he left you?''
''To the Foreign Office, where he had an ap-
pointment. He will soon be back. I leave you.
He will come expecting to find me here, and will
find you instead."
''Are you not afraid of his having an ally?"
"Whom do you mean? My sister-in-law? I
wrote to her about it in England and have had
"Which you never showed me."
"True, true! But it was an excellent reply.
Oh, she will make no attempt to catch my son!
Her principles are even stricter than yours. She
is exLperiting, but at the same time rea^uring,
for I feel secure against any manceuvring on her
part. It is only Marie whom I fear, with her ar-
M nature under that air of reserVe. She and
F61icien have always been on such terms of inti-
macy that I never foresaw this danger. Of course
she camiot help loving him."
"Yes, with a cousinly affection."
"Oh, I know those cousinly affections which
are nothing more or less than love in disguise.
Marie has eyes and intelligence. She is aware
that my son is a charming and advantageous parti;
that he has a fortune and will go far. It is against
her that you will have to work. You must simply
tell him that you regard such a marriage as im-
possible and that it would pain you deeply.
86 THE BARRIER
There! I hear the outside door close; it must be
Fflicien. Tell him you have not seen me yet. Do
not turn pale like that! It is nonsense! When
will you be a real woman — a woman of strong
Mme. Limerel kept her eyes fixed upon the door-
way through which her husband disappeared,
saying to herself, *'When will you be a real man,
with a man's heart?" At this decisive moment
she was terrified to find herself alone and forced
to act against her natural instincts, and indeed
against her sense of right and justice.
As F^licien entered and bent his eyes upon her
with a look of tender inquiry, she threw her whole
diplomacy into assuming an attitude of ea^ uncon-
sciousness. Slowly she began removing her jew-
elled hat-pins and lajdng her flower-trimmed hat
upon the table before her while she carefully
smoothed a stray lock of hair with the tips of her
. ''Has father not come in yet?" he inquired.
''Not yet, dearest. You have just returned
from the Salon — ^from seeing — ? In short, how
were you pleased?"
Fflicien had a clear, direct glance, and true
French eyes, by turns clever, appealing, mocking,
and coaxing, but with too many vagrant thoughts
passing through them. His pale, youthful coun-
tenance, with close-cut brown hair, buddmg mous-
tache, and a prominent chin like his father's, gave
him the air of a student, while a certain elegance
in the carriage of his head and in the supple out-
lines of his figure recalled the portrait of some
THE BARRIER 87
young Florentine, noble of the Renaissance clad
in a silken doublet, with a jewelled poniard in his
He embraced his mother without repljdng, and
after a moment's pause said:
'^Come, sit down here beside me, won^t you?
I need your help."
*'Ah, my child! when you are once men we
mothers are of so little use. You think I can help
you still? It does me good to hear that."
For answer he took her hand and led her to a
sofa, where he seated himself beside her, and bent
forward with a look of trouble in his eyes.
She drew herself up and listened intently, with
a serious expression on her pretty, doll-like face.
At certain words he spoke her eyelids drooped as
if pained by what he said, at other moments she
turned white, with a faint murmur, ''It is im-
possible. That is an illusion. It is too late."
It was evident that she suffered at seeing him
suffer, and at not daring to console him.
''I am very unhappy," he began.
"What is it, my child?"
"There are only three of us at home and you
and my father do not agree."
"Indeed we do! Why do you say that?"
"Well, he and I disagree on a very serious sub-
ject, and I do not know whether you will side
with me or with him."
"Tell me, is it about this marriage? If Baron
Tourette's daughter does not please you, your
father and I will look out for some other young
88 THE BARRIER
"I have already found that other."
'' Heavens ! Who is she? "
'^One who is very dear to us."
' ' What ! Your cousin Marie? "
''Yes, Marie. You know how fond she has
always been of you."
''That is true."
"And you have always taken her part. What
better daughter could you ask for? She will not
have to learn to love you. If you will only help
"No, you go too fast, Fflicien. It is out of the
"Why out of the question?" and he looked her
straight in the eyes, while she tried to evade his
glances as she murmured:
"Your career, your fortune, require a totally
"Poor mamma! You have evidently seen my
father. You are merely echoing him."
She did not venture to deny it again, and he
withdraw from her a little as she said :
"I don't know whether your father will change
his mind later. Possibly he may, but it is safest
not to approach him at first."
"You wish me to wait? You, too?"
"Yes, my dear child."
"Then I will, but not without being sure that
Marie cares for me. That I must know, and
within the hour. I am going at once to ask her."
"You have not spoken to her yet?"
"No. I wished to wait until I had passed my
e:xaminations and felt myself a man."
THE BARRIER 89
''And yet you consented to go to this rendez-
vous of your father's? "
''Yes, m order to have one more argument on
my side, to be able to say to him: I have seen
them both and I love only Marie/'
"But it is quite impossible, my son. A mar-
riage cannot be arranged like this, on the spur of
''I have loved her for years."
"Without telling your parents, F61icien?"
"Since you are both against me, I must speak
for myself. I shall go to her at once — ^but will she
Mme. Limerel shook her blonde head and smiled
in spite of her trouble. "How can you doubt it?
A girl who knows you 1 "
"No, you do not quite understand — ^there are
certain things — ^Marie is very superior to others."
"And what of you, Fflicien?" cried his mother,
throwing her arms around her son's neck and
drawing down to her the sensitive face drawn
and vibrating with emotion. "I am weak," she
added, kissing him. "I ought not to let you see
that I forgive you. I do not approve, and I fully
agree with your father. You cannot imagme how
upset I am by all this. At the very moment, too,
when our fondest wish for you was about to be real-
ised, you ruin everything. We have always lived
so united and happy until now."
"Yes, but only by avoiding all vital questions.
I fear, dearest mother, that our peace was the re-
sult of a weak compromise."
"Alas! could not things last as they were?"
90 THE BARRIER
"You see, dear, that they could not/'
"And what am I to say to your father?"
"Tell him that I have gone to see Marie," and
as he spoke F^licien arose and left his mother
seated alone on the sofa, weeping silently, but all
unconscious of the deeper causes of her tears.
The distance was short between the hdtel of
the Victor Limerels and the apartment occu-
pied by Marie and her mother in the Avenue
d' Antin, F61icien walked rapidly, pondering upon
what he should say to his cousin, what her replies
would be, and building up a score of possible
romances. He recalled the whole past which
bound him to Marie, and saw her once more a
child on the beach at St. Lunaire, where the two
families had been in the habit of spending their
summers, or in the Tuileries gardens which he used
to cross daily on his way to and from his college,
and where he often lingered to watch his Uttle
cousin skipping rope, or running to and fro among
the other girls, as lithe and frolicsome as a young
kid. He saw her in short skirts at that uncertain
age when her smile began to change, as a ripen-
ing fruit takes on a tinge of colour — ^Marie, whose
proud glance held one aloof from her realm of vir-
ginal thoughts and whom he loved even then with
a timid, jealous afifection, feeling her to be dififer-
ent from the other girls whom he flirted with at
balls — this cousin of his who was clever with-
out diplomas, this very pretty girl who remained
simple, this Parisienne who had bloomed in a
chosen circle, and who, as he knew, looked with
a shade of youthful severity on the mixed social
THE BARRIER 91
relations of his father's family — ^that a girl of
twenty, so gifted, could remain long without be-
ing loved, sought, and won was incredible. He
had suffered therefore during this six weeks'
absence, this English journey of which he knew so
little. Whom had she met over there? What
new influences had coloured her girlish image of
an ideal hero? This vague fear was one of the
secret causes which had decided him to seek Marie
Mme. Limerel lived on the third floor of a house
in the Avenue d'Antin. On being informed by the
maid that madame was out, but that mademoiselle
was at home, F^cien became so agitated that he
could barely stammer: *'Do not announce me.
I will go and find her."
''Mademoiselle is in the dining-room, writing,"
the maid said, and as she opened the door Marie
sprang up and came to meet her cousin. Drop-
ping him a deep curtsey, she exclaimed laughingly,
''Good-morning, Excellency. To what do I owe
this honour? Sit down, Fflicien," she added.
"You see I have taken possession once more of
my favourite nook for writing, where I have a
better light and less noise than on the avenue
And as she spoke she reseated herself at a table
in the large bay-window, overlooking a court-yard
with low walls, over which a glimpse could be
caught of the tree-tops of a garden on the Fau-
bourg St. Honor6.
"I have hardly caught sight of you since you
came back from England, Marie."
92 THE BARRIER
'Trae. That so-called family party of ours
the other evening was not precisely an intimate
gathering, and mamma's dozens of special friends
were very monopolising."
'^It wUl be the same at our house; we shall be
almost by ourselves at dinner, but in the evening
a hundred people are coming and there is to be
music. B^des, people always try to monopolise
you! When it is not a nice old lady, it is a man,
young or old, who wants to sit beside you because
he enjoys talking to a lovely girl, and who accounts
for it by sajring, 'Oh, yes! she is so clever and
cultivated!' All of which is quite true.''
"Come, F61icien, spare me. We girls have to
pass our examinations, too, you know, and they
are not always the most amusing ones. Well,
here you are, a man with a career before you — ^the
career of all others! They must have been de-
lighted at home."
"Yes, but it was a delight that did not last."
"Do you know any that do?"
And as their eyes met for a moment, Marie
blushed and bit her lips, realising that she had
heedlessly said the wrong thing and brought the
conversation to a dangerous point. She began
nervously toying with the letter which lay before
her. But Marie Limerel was one of those per-
fectly frank and courageous natures which hesi-
tate only at the start, and having once chosen
their path go straight towards the duty before
them. Her delicate profile stood out like an
antique cameo against the light behind her, and
THE BARRIER 93
as she spoke she involuntarily lifted her hand^ as
if taking a vow.
^'If you have anything to say to me, speak at
once while we are alone, and let there be only
truth between us,'* she said.
'^You will answer me with perfect sincerity?''
''Indeed I will."
''Marie, my cousin Marie, do you love me a
''I love you very much, F61icien, and always
have from childhood."
''Yes, I know and I believe you, but that is not
what I am asking for now. Do you love me
enough to be my mfe? For my part I have long
since passed from a cousinly affection for you to
a deep and ardent love. I have compared you
with other girls and found you superior to them
all — ^I can truly say it — ^you so good, so loyal,
who pass through this stupid society in which
we all find ourselves, without resembling it in
your look, your speech, or your heart. You so
"So young! Oh, F61icien! I have sometimes
asked myself why you were no longer yoimg."
"You have thought of me then? Even if it
were only to blame me, I thank you for giving me
a place in your thoughts. Had you guessed?
Did you know?"
"Yes, I sometimes thought so. But listen, I
could love with my whole heart only one who
gave me a love such as I have dreamed of."
"Ardent, enthusiastic, reverent, Marie? Mine
is all these."
94 THE BARRIER
"I wish for more, far more."
"Pure then? You are questioning me as to
my past? You reproach me with infidelities to
you — which have been few, I assure you."
"You are mistaken. I might perhaps pardon
all this to one who asked for pardon."
"Perhaps, you say?"
"Yes, for I am not yet called upon to make^that
sacrifice. I do not know. But what I do ask for
above all, is that there should be no thought that
kept us apart; that we should have biit' one soul
"Ah! We have come to it at last. I have been
fearing, Marie, that you would ask me to be like
"Have we the same faith? Are you a Chris-
tian still? Understand me: I know that you con-
tinue to go to mass and would accompany your
wife there. I see that through family tradition
you remain respectful to Catholic ideas, ceremo-
nies, and customs. But to be outwardly respectful,
mon ami, is not enough, it is not living by faith as I
wish to live. It pains me to speak to you like this.
I am being hard to myself. But it would be such a
disillusion if I found that my husband could not
pray with me — ^was not inspired in all his acts
by that faith which is truly all of me. You think
me pretty and I am touched by that. But other
girls are pretty, too. Why have you chosen me?
What you love in me, I truly believe, is this inner
"That may be, Marie; there has always been a
mystery about you."
THE BARRIER 95
"No, only a sheltered youth, A will which
would be weak of itself, but has been fortified
from childhood and directed upward with admir-
able tenderness. I see so many wrecks about me I
I feel that with most men I should be imperilling
my soul and my happiness. I should like— but
do not laugh at me."
"On the contrary. Speak and let me look
into the paradise of your soul. I promise you to
answer truly. What would you like?"
"That my marriage should have about it some-
thing of the eternal. I believe those to be poor
marriages which are not formed to last forever.
I think that the family one founds should have
echoes before and after. I should wish to be the
mother of a saintly race."
"You deserve to be, Marie. But that other,
where will you find him? I know a few men who
think like you and who live as you say — ^they
are far better than I, but they do not love you.
They might pass near you without knowing all
you are worth. What nobler work, moreover,
than to bring back to God the man you have
"To-day that can no longer be done, F61icien.
I should have the whole world to struggle against.
I could not bring it to pass."
"And yet, little Marie, Christian virgins have
"They were forced to in those days. Besides,
those pagans had never known the true life."
"The pagans of to-day are Christians blighted.
96 THE BARRIER
I am sure of it. They will not revive in pure
water like a drooping spray of lilac."
"But in tears they may," and he tried to laugh.
"Yes, perhaps in tears," and as she spoke the
tears sprang to his eyes. He did not attempt to
hide them, but bent his head and gazed at Marie
as if she were already far away. And not being
able to endure the sorrowful love expressed in his
gaze, Marie looked back at him for a moment,
then closed her eyes. Pity was growing within her.
"My poor F61icienl how I hurt you!" she cried.
"No, not you, not you, Marie. It is not your
fault. You make me sufifer, but only by showing
me the gulf between us. The fault is in those who
are not like you. I am trying to defend myself,
you see, because I love you. The words you speak
I feel to be true; you are doubtless right, but I no
longer feel sure. That is the hardest thing I have
to own to you. I do not often think about the
faith that once was mine, lest I should find that
there is no vestige of it left."
"Do not say that, F61icien. You are surely
"I hope it may be so "
^'Oh, yes I — do not answer me at once. You
are not sure; take time to examine yourself."
"You did think better of me then, Marie. You
did not believe that I had so changed for the
worse. I bless you for suffering, too."
"See! you are using the words of our faith.
You say, I bless you."
"That is what is left to me, alas! Words, sounds,
THE BARRIER 97
''Cling to these regrets; they are the first steps
on the return path. Do not say any longer that
you do not believe. Do not accuse yourself;
She had bent forward and taken F6licien's
hand. She consoled him, she pitied him with
her whole young, tender soul which saw him weep
"Yes, I will try," he answered. ''But can
you who have never changed, understand? I
admire this religion which I once loved, but I
no longer turn to it. I say, 'It is beautiful,'
but do not adhere to its precepts. My soul has
become inert, my will no longer obeys my intel-
ligence. I regret not believmg but make no efifort
to throw off this burden of doubt. There is a
force within me which is dead or sleeping, I do not
know which. And it is on the solution of this
problem that you make my fate depend!"
"How can it be so? You who went to a college
directed by Fathers. You — ^brought up by them ! "
"Yes, but not taught. That is a different
matter. They did what they could, or nearly so.
If their work had not been destroyed I might
have been the man you coifld love, Marie. Let
us not seek out who caused this ruin. Evidently
it waa L I in the first pl&ce, but-we might dii
cover those whom I refuse to name. That is an
abyss I dread to cross."
Marie rose with an imploring gesture, saying:
"Do not answer any farther now. I can be sure
that you will tell me tlie whole truth. Take time
to study yourself and you will find some delusions
98 /THE BARRIER
melt away Which blind you ss to your genuine
beliefs. Go F61icien, I have hope."
"Dear Marie, what an angel you arel"
"And wnile you are thinking, I will pray." He
stood dry*eyed before her now, as pale as she, but
not daring to look in the face he loved, lest he
should no longer be master of himself when once
he met these eyes so full of compassion. He
gazed downwards at her long, slender hands as
"Marie, we are the victims of the time. I am
like this society which is perishing amidst its
pleasures, while you are among the chosen few
reserved for a resurrection. I have never seen
as I do to-night what it is that has ceased to live
within me. I will do as you bid. I will try to
find myself amidst these ruins."
"If you see the evil, renounce it."
"Ah, Marie 1 how many see the evil but have
neither the will nor the grace to be cured."
"Not the grace, you mean."
"You cannot comprehend such poverty of soul,
you the ardent, the devoted."
"If my love could bind you to the faith again!
But no, it is not enough; strength must come
from above. I will pray for it."
"Tell me, Marie," he said imploringly, "when
shall we see each other again? You are so dear,
so despairingly dear to me."
"We shall meet at my aunt^s to-morrow, but I
beg you to say nothing to me there. I beg you to
avoid speaking of this. Let days and days pass.
Do not condemn us too soon."
THE BARRIER 99
''?7s/ — ah, how good you are I"
'^Pray for us both, Marie." And so they
clasped hands and parted, that rapid pressure of
the fingers expressing the mutual loyalty of their
F^licien had no desire to return home at once.
He was too agitated to meet his father's eyes, his
mind was too bitterly stirred. All his youth
rose up before him, all his past years brought
their testimony, saying to him: *'What do you
believe? How can you be a man of faith?
During your whole childhood you were left to the
care of servants for whom you were merely a^
small, crying creature whom they were forced
to tend at night in the absence of your parents.
What poor guaxdian angels! For one who joined
your hSmds and taught you to lisp a prayer, how
many hurried you to bed without a thought of
heaven, such as a child needs, to be wholly a child?
What study have you ever made of religion?
During your school days the thought of gradua-
tion usiuped the place of all else. In college a
moderate place was allotted to religious instruc-
tion, sufficient, doubtless, when parents bear
their part or show its influence in their lives.
There were some zealous priests who tried to
pour something of the divine into these minds
absorbed with the world, steeped in its tumult,
assailed by all the influences of the streets, the
newspapers, the theatre, books, and their own pas-
sionate natures, and finding in their pursuits of
pleasure reason enough for doubt and denial.
100 THE BARRIER
These priests, moved by Christian charity and wise
in the knowledge which fortifies the soul, won some
minds to the truth forever, others merely to an
outward respect which could not endure. You
were among these last! How soon the teachings of
the Church were obscured by all you heard
uttered or implied at home or in society — ^talk
which your mother half disapproved, but to
which ^e listened with a courteous strdle, while
your father constantly affirmed that an honest
man could dispense with religion and philosophy,
without a thought of the young soul beside him
hearing all this and seeing how those about him
lived their lives with no regard for the creed they
repeated. Thus your youth was passed!"
And as his retrospect continued, F6licien recalled
one unhappy date in particular. It was while he
was pursuing his law studies that a sense of his
utter unworthiness had led him to abstain from
the Easter communion, of which his mother had
partaken alone. On their return home no ex-
planation had followed, only a timid remon-
strance on her part, ignored by his father.
And now Marie had brought all this past to
life again and forced him to ask himself: *^What
do you still believe? What proinise can you
make to this pure soul? What sympathy can
there be between her and you? — ^Descend deeper
into your conscience, suffer and perhaps in the in-
most depths you may find buried the germ of
some force winch is still alive."
After wandering through the streets and ave-
nues of the Etoile quarter until the clock struck
THE BARRIER 101
eight, F61icien finally turned homeward. His
mother, on hearing the vestibule door open,
stepped forward to meet him.
*'How long you have been gone!" she cried.
"I have said nothing to your father. He is up-
*^Do not say anything to him now," F61icien
^'I cannot for a moment believe that she has
"Do not question me, mother; let me reflect in
silence. I am in need of rest and thought before
giving the answer I have promised."
*'Ahl so much the better, since the decision
rests with you."
''Yes — " he began, then stopped with a sigh and
passed his hand gently over his mother's brow,
which he had never before seen so seamed with
''Do not be unhappy, mother — ^the time has not
come yet. All I can say is that the happiness or
misery of my life lies in the word I shall have
to say to her, and you can do nothing — ^noth-
ing." And in a lower tone he added, "Nothing
On the morning of Tuesday, the twenty-second
of June, Mme. Victor Limerel received a note from
her sister-in-law, to which she sent the following
"Certainly, dear Madeleine, I shall be charmed
to see your Englishman, He will meet a number
102 THE BARRIER
of people here, for our friends all wish to celebrate
my son's success with us. And you will notice that
the date is well chosen, since we are on the eve of
"Why do you not bring M. Brejmolds to dinner,
so that he may get to know us a little before the
other guests arrive, and so find a few conversar
tional islands in this ocean of strangers? And
besides, without him we shall be thirteen at table.
"Your sister and friend,
"POMMBAU ViCTOB LjMEREL.
"P. S. Fflicien, to whom I have just read this
note, jeers at my superstition. But I insist; bring
me the fourteenth. "
On the very day of his departure from Redhall,
Reginald had embarked for Ostend. He had
pa^ed the first week or two of his voluntary exile
with friends in Belgium. Then, armed with let-
ters of introduction, he had taken the train for
Paris, drawn thither by a definite and deliberate
purpose. "I will see them at home," he thought.
"I will study these Catholics in their fives and
works. I will attend their gatherings and hear
them speak; and for this purpose I will go to
France where religion is the oldest, the most cre-
ative, the most apostolic, and the most bitterly
opposed. I shall not frequent theatres or galleries,
since I am bound on this one quest. I do not
care about those other things, they can come later."
For this reason, and one other, he had rejected the
idea which had occurred to him more than once.
THE BARRIER 103
of paying a vMt to the two French ladies who had
bein witnesses of his recent experiences and guests
at his home. Some words he had himself spoken
also restrained him. He had said to his Uttle
friend Dorothy, speaking of Marie: "I shall not
see her again." It was childish, no doubt, but
these words seemed binding to his tenacious na-
ture, so little used to reversing his decisions, even
in trifling matters. Nevertheless, one evening
as he was returning to his hotel somewhat lonely
and sad, he caught sight of the lighted windows
of Mme. LimereFs apartment, and a youthful long-
ing for one more gUmpse of pretty Marie Limerel
carried the day.
Although Marie and her mother had welcomed
him with a cordial friendliness authorised by the
weeks spent at Westgate, he had appeared at
first cold and formal. They found him as dis-
tant as on the first evening when Lady Brey-
nolds had presented her son to the two French
ladies. It was evident that the sort of confidence
which had sprung up on English soil between
Reginald and Marie had not crossed the Channel,
and it hardly seemed as if the correct and silent
young man who replied to their questions only in
monosyllables could ever have walked and talked
with Marie in the park at home.
Mme. Limerel, who was equally surprised at this
perfunctory conversation broken by frequent
pauses, suddenly asked:
"You would, perhaps, like to make a few ac-
quaintances in Paris, Monsieur?"
"Thank you, no; I do not care to do so."
104 THE BARRIER
"It is sight-seeing then that interests you?"
He had laughed as he answered: "Not espe-
cially." But they had caught an expression in his
eyes revealing that here was a soul on its guard.
"I do not mean^ you understand, that you
should climb into one of those vans on the Place
de rOp6ra which carry your compatriots all over
Paris. But I thought that coming here for the
first time you might have laid out some plan of
study or amusement, and knowing you I feel quite
sure it would be study."
"Yes, some friends of mine in Belgium have
given me a few letters of introduction." And he
said no more on the subject of the use he was
making of his time in Paris.
Naturally no allusion was made to the discus-
sions which had led to Reginald's sudden de-
parture from Redhall, and which had caused so
much talk in the little Westgate circle. Mme.
Limerel inquired for Sir George and Lady Brey-
nolds as if quite unaware of the scenes that had
passed, even before her own eyes.
Reginald was touched by this reserve, and
thou^ he gave no sign, he said within hin^f:
"These are thoroughly well-bred people, since
they appear the same at home in Parish they did
For in his inmost thoughts he had entertained
a suspicion that English surroundings had acted
as a check upon a certain exuberance and frivol-
ity of mind and speech which he believed to be
Accordingly when Mme. Limerel had suggested
THE BARRIER 105
his accompanying them to her sister-in-law's on
the next evening but one, he accepted with an
eagerness which proved that he had been charmed
as well as surprised by his visit.
'^I do not propose your coming for the society
you will meet there," she added, ^' since you have
admitted your unsociableness "
'^And besides, it is not precisely our society,"
'^ — ^but on account of the music, which will be
Thus it was that on the evening of the twenty-
second, on the stroke of eight, Reginald Breynolds
was being presented to the guests of the Victor
These included first a young Pommeau couple,
relatives of Mme. Limerel's, the husband, a partner
in the automobile firm of Mohl & Gerq, being
commonly known as 'Tommeau des automo-
biles," as in Rome they speak of Pietro dei Mas-
simi. Next came an old Councillor of State who
dined impartially in all sets and at all seasons,
invariably telling one good story after the Bur-
gundy to pay h^ scot tnd end the dinner jovial-
ly, then, ^ter a cigar in the smoking-room where
he told a spiicier story to the men, he departed
with a sensed! duty Accomplished/ TherT were
also the banker Ploute and his wife. He was
the manager of several big companies, very
clever, and wealth incarnate; while she was wealth
incarnate and very dull. She was also exceedingly
blonde, and her sloping shoulders were more laden
with diamonds than those of any other woman in
106 THE BARRIER
good society. Diplomacy was represented by a
young secretary of legation, who had widied to
pay the new attache the compliment of dining
with him elsewhere than at a ministerial func-
tion; he was a youth of mild and modest speech,
with a collection of terrible anecdotes against his
neighbour. Then came M, de Semoville, whose
wife had declined at the eleventh hour; an ama-
teur sculptor who attributed his lack of success
in the artistic worid exclusively to his birth and
station, and made no secret of his envy of his
untitled rivals. Finally there were the cousins
Bourguillifere, a thick-set, sturdy couple — the
wife with something of the imposing mien of a
Roman matron — ^who ostensibly spent the entire
year in the country, absorbed in the management
of a great estate from which Madame derived
yearly profits of twenty-five thousand francs on
her dairy alone. Renowned as they were for
their rural, agricultural, equine, and bovine ex-
periences, this couple were to be met with in Paris
whenever they could snatch a moment from their
fields and flocks, in other words, incessantly.
This small, intimate dinner, as Mme. Limerel
called it, was actually made up of professional
diners-out who were in the habit of meeting reg-
ularly at the same table. It was noticeable for
the silent, rapid ease of the service, and for the
complete absence of originality in the conversa-
tion. At first the great mill-owner took the lead
— ^as though he were presiding at a board meeting
— evidently under the impression that he was
stimulating discussion and a free interchange
THE BARRIER 107
of ideas. He did in fact draw out a variety of ^
contradictory opinions on a vast number of topics
grave and gay, but these themes were soon ex-
hausted, as the company in general knew very
little about them, and cared still less.
Regular habitu63 of society recognise this fact,
but Reginald, who had lived in Various countries
but never in France, secretly admired the versa-
tality of these French people, their vivacity, the
appositeness of an occasional repartee, which may
have served before but which reappears from time
to time under a slight disguise. He was amused,
in short, by all he heard, having sufficient sense of
humour to appreciate the happy hits. He was
greatly entertained by M. de Semoville's experir
ences at the art auctions, of which he was a regular
devotee; as well as by the councillor's piquant
anecdotes, one of which was pronounced by the
knowing M. Ponuneau to be ^'fresh from the mint."
As he was communicating his impressions,
mostly in English, to Marie, who sat beside him, he
suddenly became aware that he was the person
expected to speak next, and say something entirely
new. For it is a law on such occasions, frequently
verified, that a guest who may be supposed to
have something worth saying, is not called upon
at once, but has his cue given him after the first
courses are over.
The habitu63 naturally wish, before giving their
attention to new-comers, to display their own
little talents, to gossip awhile, and to make them-
selves agreeable to their partners. The saddle
of mutton had accordingly been served when M.
108 THE BARRIER
Pommeau "of the automobiles/* in repl3diig to
some question of his neighbour's, remarked audi-
bly: *'0h, yes, we have Monsieur Breynolds
here, who knows India thoroughly."
'"That is true!" exclaimed M. Limerel, in the
tones of a whipper-in sounding the rally. "Per-
fectly! He hsa held a command in the most
' ^ Where was it, may I ask, Monsieiu* Brejmolds? "
said the fair Mme. Ploute, whose complexion had
cost several millions and had won for her the heart
of M. Ploute, and who in speaking moved only her
pretty, rose-tinted lips, while thTlines of her face
^mained immovable^lid expressionless.
Reginald, embarrassed at being obliged to speak
French before the whole table, merely replied:
"Sixteenth Rajput regiment, stationed at
Manipur in Assam."
This cast a momentary chill over the company,
while every one was trying to locate Assam. The
first to recover was the secretary of legation, who
said: "Oh, yes, Assam, a province of British
India on the north-east frontier of China, very
savage in fact "
"Because I visited India on my wedding-trip,"
resumed Mme. Ploute. "Do you think the Hin-
doo women so amazingly pretty. Monsieur?"
After that, the trigger having been pulled, each
took his turn at questioning Reginald. He de-
fended himself as well as he was able, replying
at first only in the briefest phrases.
Somej)ne alluded to Sisowath and its dancers.
Mme. Ploute, who was more used to being looked at
THE BARRIER 109
than listened to, keenly enjoyed the new sensa-
tion of leading the conversation, and turning her
fixed and sterilised smile upon Reginald, who held
himself at attention as if on parade, she poured
forth a torrent of amiable nonsense to which he
replied gravely, occasionally pausing for a mo-
Mme. Ploute thought him a charming young
man, and all eyes were turned upon him as he de-
scribed the uniform of the Sixteenth Rajput,
known as the Lucknow Regiment, which con-
sisted of a red tunic with white facings, and the
white Wolseley helmet with a pugaree or muslin
scarf twisted around the crown, or else of a khaki
suit of knickerbockers, with puttees bound about
In imagination all pictured Reginald attired
in this fashion, either in scarlet or buff, and look-
ing extremely handsome. He was requested to
give a few traits of manners peculiar to the
Mishmi tribes among whom he had lived, and
gradually the halo that belongs to a hero, a
softened, tender glow, began to envelop him
I in the eyes of Mme. Pommeau, who was unhap-
pily married, and of Mme. Ploute, who had once
dreamed of being adored by some splendid
warrior. Mme. Victor Limerel reflected grate-
fully that her dinner was going off well, while
Reginald, finding that his lYench was eadly un-
derstood, hesitated less and grew more animated.
"Paris must strike you drolly after the Mishmis,"
, broke in the banker Ploute, who was a little bored
» by India.
no THE BARRIER
"What have you seen in Paris during the week
you have spent here?" inquired M. Limerel, and
several women's voices chimed in: "Yes, yes,
tell us what you have seen in Paris, Monsieur
"Other Mishmis," murmured Fflicien under
All heads were now turned towards the English-
man, and the maWe d'hotd and his aides who were
passing the salad regarded with disfavour this
guest who obstructed the service.
"I?" returned Reginald quietly, "I have been
questioning priests and directors of institutions
in regard to the charities of Paris. I have visited
one of the last religious communities which has
been allowed to remain here, and the Training
School for Cripples of the Brothers of St. Jean
de Dieu. That seems to me a work surpassing
"You were not doing this for pleasure?"
queried Mme. Ploute anxiously. "You doubt-
less have a mission from your government."
"No, I am not on any mission. I am doing it
of my own accord."
"How curious! Don't you think, ckh-e amie^^
said the handsome Mme. Ploute, aiddressing the
pretty Mme. Pommeap, "that it is very odd?
Monsieur Breynolds hatf not at all the air "
"Of what, rruxchkreV^
"Why— of that!"
"Then," resumed M. Limerel, "you must be
rewriting Maxime Du Camp's book for your own
THE BARRIER 111
"Precisely," said Reginald. "I have discovered
that the charities of Paris are a worid in them-
selves, and an admirable one."
"You must have — ^ah — excellent ones at home."
"Doubtless we have prosperous institutions, if
you like, and yet there is a personal force here
which strikes me greatly."
There was a chorus of approbation, followed
by an immediate abandonment of the handsome
Indian officer. The men smiled at their neigh-
bours as if to say: "There, didn't I warn you?"
The ladies, the younger ones especially, smiled
back. "You were right, and yet he promised to
be interesting. He started off well."
Mme. Limerel decided that there was no time to
lose in getting off of charities and effecting some
sort of digression.
Marie noticed that F^licien did not share the
ironical attitude of M. Pommeau, M. de Semoville,
the secretary, or his father.
Dinner over, as she was returning to the salon
on Reginald's arm, M. Bourguillifere, who had not
uttered a word at table, approached them :
"Mr. Breynolds," he said, "allow me to tell you
that the opinions you have expressed are precisely
my own. There is no place in the world where the
original human material is nobler than with us,"
and he bowed. Reginald was at once seized upon
by the diplomat, who had been silently preparing
a series of questions to propound to him, while
F61icien joined Marie where she was standing
relieved against a splendid background of Gobelins
tapestry which draped one end of the salon.
112 THE BARRIER
"I cannot speak of myself," he began, "since
I have promised, but I have the right to ask what
this Englishman is doing here, who seems to know
you and your mother so well. What has he come ' ^
for? For you, perhaps?"
''No," die answered, "he has a much better
"To write a book? What stuff 1"
"No, to seek the truth."
"You cannot arouse my sympathy in him. I
distrust thfese researches, for I suspect %. personal
"How hard you are upon me, and how itejust
"Never fear! I will undertake the education
of your Hindoo. I will soon cool his enthusiasm
by showing him what a reactionary salon is like."
"Why should ypu try to belittle us in his eyes,
But he was already gone, in response to a sig-
nal from his father, who was conducting the men
into the smoking-room. On their return they
found the salons already invaded by a swarm of
evening guests whom an interminable line of au-
tomobiles had deposited at the door.
Obliged to welcome this throng, F^licien did
not find himself free again until the conc^ was,
half over, when he sought out Reginald, wiiom he
found standing in a doorway leading m;)^^4
small blue salon into the larger one, gazing with
folded arms and observant eyes at the half-
circle of women, most of them young and in full
ball dress, who were clustered around the piano.
THE BARRIER 113
whHe the men were drawn up in serried ranks
I As F61icien approached, he sought to divine the
* thoughts of this Englishman, transported into a
society so new to him, but failing to perceive the
slightest change of expression cross his face, de-
cided that Reginald Brejmolds was a typical
specimen of the phlegmatic Anglo-Saxon race.
In his morbid frame of mind this sight aroused
his jealousy. Without being distinctly conscious
of his ownieelings, he experienced a vague dread
of the comparison which might be dra^n in a
mind^ear to him, between this stranger and him-
self, and he feared lest Reginald Bre3molds should
carry away from this party an image of Marie
Limerel more bewitching than ever in the refined
elegance of its setting. He therefore resolved to
dissipate all illusions in regard at least to the set-
ting. In order to reach Reginald's side, he was
obliged to make a detour through the firat salon,
which was almost deserted, and while he was on his
way the Englishman caught snatches of a tete-a-tete
which was going on near him, to an accompani-
ment of the tuning of violins and 'cellos, between
M. Pdmmeau, a black-headed young man with
flashingL, white teeth, and a very young woman
with mk face of a Perugino angel and the figure
of a R»aissance statue draped in rose-tinted
satiiLllley were conversing in discreet under-
tones, as if used to such manoeuvres, with their
heads close together, but with their faces turned
towards the orchestra as if intent on what was
passing before them.
114 THE BARRIER
Re: I should like to know what is going on in
that little heart.
She: It is nothing so strange as you fancy.
He: The less reason for refusing to confess it to
She: A droll confessor.
He: rWhy so?
She: You would be too indulgent.
He: Towards myself, yes— but not towards oth-
She: Naturally, but I prefer to keep my own
He: They are very naughty secrets, then?
She: You think me in need of repentance?
He: Repentance, no; you are too young for
She: Be still,^Impertinent, some one might hear
He: What matter if they do?
She: Oh, there are principles here
He: None to speak of, only fragments. Will
you have some?
She: Not this evening, thank you.
And with this they drifted apart.
"Who is that lady?" Reginald asked of Fflicien
as he came up.
At that moment a rustic strain was being played
on the 'cello, an artless little melody upon which,
as it grew graver, the piano began to weave the
motif of a prayer.
"She is a 'flirt' of Monsieur Pommeau's, whose
husband, a fine, agreeable, intelligent fellow,
adores her. Seel he is that tall, apod-looking
THE BARRIER 115
man over there, who is watching her with anxious
eyes. But they have very little money, and she
likes Pommeau's presents, which proves the truth
of Councillor Blumentd's epigram at dinner."
"It's true, he indulged in several, but in such
low tones that one half of the table could only see
the other half laugh. Well, what he said was:
'Rarer than a love-marriage is a love-flirtation;
they are mostly de (xmvenance. ^ "
The Englislunan saw nothing droll in this re-
maric and did not even sketch a smile. The pas-
torale was over now and after a burst of applause
the women hastened to resume the buzz of convex^
sation so unfortunately interrupted by the music.
As the 'cellist, with his instrument in one hand
and his bow in the other, stood bowing to Mme.
Limerel, who was congratulating him, an old gen-
tleman passed by muttering: "What a bore! was
it not, Madame?"
"You see that bald young man, with a mono-
cle, beside the piano?" pursued F61icien. "That
is a very distinguished anarchist whom they are
thinking of for a professorship at the College de
France, or the Polytechnic. He can have his
choice, of course. There are no claims nowadays
that have a chance beside those of a demolishes
My father invited him because he is a power to
be conciliated, perhaps on my account, [certainly
on his own."
"I shall not offer to introduce you, because in
your chM^cter of Englishman you will immedi-
116 THE BARRIER
ately be called upon to give in your adherence to
the principle of universal brotherhood."
' ' Certainly, Monsieur. You have no idea of the
tjrranny of these diploma'd fools. Whether you
agree with a word he utters or not, he leaves
you convinced of your admiring allegiance. But I
can guess what your real opinions are on that
question. When all the nations of Europe have
agreed to be brothers, the last to hold out his
hand in this universal grasp will be the English-
This time Reginald smiled and said:
''Very true that, very truel"
"You see that lady of uncertain age, with an
equine profile, in the front row — ^not so far along —
there you are! She is a very great lady indeed
who entertains so much and so graciously that
she considers herself exempt from the obligation
of ever returning visits."
"I see no harm in that if people keep on going
"That elderly man beside her is quite ruined,
but is clever enough to live in luxury on nothing
a year, and is greatly admired by the ladies."
"Who is that young lady in black tulle who has
been talking so long with those two men? "
"She must be begging for one of her charities."
"You are joking! I have been watching her
for twenty minutes by the clock, while she smiled
and argued, and cajoled."
"No, I assure you she is one of the women whom
gossip spares. It is the Countess de Soret, who
THE BARRIER 117
has been a widow for ten years, and has con-
tinued to go into society in order to help on her
good causes. She has never paraded her grief,
but has been all virtue, sorrow, and brave en-
durance. No stranger could quite understand her.
That is the Parisian type of saint, and is a very
superior article, believe me, which cannot be pro-
Reginald's polite .gesture of doubt seemed to
say: Let us admit it, as I do not wish to contra-
dict you, though I do not, myself, believe in that
M. Victor Limerel, who was circulating among
his guests with a smile which counteracted his
formidable chin, caught sight of Reginald and his
son: ''Ah, here you are. Monsieur 1" he exclaimed.
"I suppose my son is naming some of our guests to
you, and I hope you are beginning to feel at home
''I am praising them all impartially," said
F61icien, as his father pursued his way, and at the
same moment he remarked that Reginald's glance
was fixed on Marie. "In short," he exclaimed,
with increased bitterness, ''there is no bond of
unity among these people except that of being in
the same salon. You may look in vain for con-
victions of any kind. Most of them have given
up having any because they found them trouble-
some. They have no fears for anything but their
pleasures, and when those are threatened they
call in the fire-brigade."
"You have one, then?" queried Reginald, with
an ironical gleam in his eyes.
118 THE BARRIER
"Everything is convention here," F61icien went
on. ''Society is like Chinese lacquer, made up of
successive coats of vamish concealing very poor
wood. There is plenty of wit among these peo-
ple, and skill in the minor arts — ^by which I mean
finance, mechanics, politics, and literature — ^but no
common sense, and their opinions are like reeds
in the wind."
"They lack religious principle," said Reginald.
"There is little enough of that left, my dear
"I beg your pardon, but I have met with it
since I came to Paris," Reginald replied with
At this moment most of the ladies rose, and
there was a general movement in the direction of
the supper-tables, which were set upon a raised
platform, at one end of the long salon, where the
band was usually stationed on the occasion of a
ball. Marie was among the last to enter; she had
with her a girl of her own age, smaller than herself
but equally pretty except for the inner glow which
irradiated Marie's face. She was evidently look-
ing for some one. With the same simplicity as
if it had been a small family gathering she was
trying to find F^licien, and to reassure him with
a glance which said:
"Take courage! Hope! Amidst this crowd of
pleasure-seekers, I am thinking only of you, and
of the ordeal I have imposed on you." He caught
her eyes and understood her. At the same moment
she noticed the man beside him and remembered
that he, too, had confided his inmost thoughts to
THE BARRIER 119
her. His eyes aJso were fixed upon her and she
changed colour; then the proud head, so grace-
fully poised on the slender throat, was lost in the
throng, and as she vanished Reginald took ad-
vantage of the opportunity to take his leave.
'^I hope to see you again," said F6licien. "We
two are so utterly unlike that we may learn some-
thing from one another. Where are you staying?
I shall drop in to call."
"At Power's Hotel," replied Reginald.
"Avenue d'Antin? That is odd!"
"Why so? I am not the first officer of my regi-
ment who has put up there."
"No, of course not. Good-bye, we shall meet
Reginald, having no inkling of Felicien's jeal-
ous suspicions, merely carried away the impres-
sion that he had to do with a very light-minded,
ill-balanced young fellow.
As F61icien re-entered the salon the company
were resuming their seats to listen to a troupe of
He began now to judge himself severely and to
realise in a flash that in sneering at his father's
guests he had yielded to a base impulse, inspired
by an unworthy jealousy of Marie, and his dis-
tress of mind was heightened by this thought.
When, at the close of the evening, Mme. Limerel
and Marie withdrew, Felicien was not there to take
leave of them. He feared to meet those pure,
womanly eyes which so easily penetrate the turbid
current of a man's mind.
It was five o^clock in the afternoon when Regi-
nald Breynolds's cab stopped before the door
of a long, low building in the Grenelle quarter
standing in the midst of factories and waste lots
surrounded by high palings. He entered a deep
garden at the rear of which stood two large houses
connected by a glazed gallery.
A woman sat knitting beneath the lindens in this
quiet spot, and the silence that reigned there told
more plainly than guide-posts that it was well out-
side the Paris limits. This was the Calvary
Asylum, where poor women suffering from in-
curable cancerous maladies are received, nursed,
and tenderly cared for.
Reginald ascended the steps leading to the
glazed gaUery, with a sense of such invincible
repugnance as caused him to stammer and half
forget his French when a lady, dressed in mourn-
ing and wearing a black cap, advanced to meet
him and inquired his errand.
While addressing this lady, who was one of the
ward nurses, and offering her his letter of intro-
duction, he experienced the sensation of draw-
ing in with every breath the germs of the terrible
disease floating in the atmosphere around him.
But her replies to his questions affected him as
THE BARRIER 121
powerfully as these feelings of instinctive repul-
sion, though in a far different way.
She was a woman of about forty, whose bright
face was beaming with goodness ahd moral
health. She spoke well and concisely, like a
Parisian, and one who has little time to waste on
trifles, though ready to bestow it freely upon all
who need her help.
Her maternal tenderness towards her patients
could be divined in the very motions of her hands,
which seemed to be listening as well as her up-
turned head, while she clasped and unclasped them
compassionately. How small she looked beside
Reginald's tall figure, and yet how calm she ap-
peared in comparison with this man who found
himself powerless to maintain that impassibility
and self-control which had been the habit of a
''How many patients have you?" he asked her.
''Three wards, each holding twenty-one beds."
"And are these beds always full?"
"Always. Death makes the only vacancies,
aad inde^ we need more room; it b so hard to
refuse any one."
"Are they all poor women whom you receive?"
"All working women of Paris, yes."
"And they pay nothing?"
"Nothing, Monsieur. We live upon the charity
of Paris, which is very great."
"Then you — ^the nurses — ^are not remunerated? "
"No, on the contrary, Monsieur, we pay our
own board. In order not to be a burden, you
122 THE BARRIER
Reginald went on.
^'Then you live here constantly? You pass
your life amidst these surroundings?"
''Certainly/^ she answered. "There are several
of us who live here always with our patients.
But we have other ladies who come in from out-
side to aid us. All widows like ourselves."
^ ^ Yes, I understand. The greatest sorrow minis-
tering to the greatest anguish. That is very noble.
Will you allow me to see one of your wards?"
She glanced at her watch and said:
"It is nearly time for the nurses to make their
rounds. But you can glance in for a few mo-
And preceding him, she rapidly led the way
through the glazed gallery into a passage con-
nected with the building on the left. Then, all at
once, she slackened her steps, and as they ap-
proached the scene of suffering without respite,
she paused and said:
"You can look through this glass door. Our
friends from outside, the ladies who come to help
us, have just gone in."
He saw two rows of very white beds, with a
wide space of waxed floor between them. White
curtains were drawn back and wound about the
posts of each bed, and a small black crucifix was
suspended at the foot. The outline of motion-
less forms was visible beneath the coverlets, and
pale faces rested upon each pillow. No sound
was audible, but floods of light poured in on all
sides. A few women, clad in the nurse's uniform,
were kneeling motionless beside the beds.
THE BARRIER 123
"They are praying?" murmured Reginald.
''Yes, they are praying that their care may be
acceptable and their hands very tender."
" — ^And that their courage may not fail?"
''Yes, and for that, too," answered his guide;
"you can look in once tnore. You will see
that all the beds are turned to face the chapel, so
that our sick may look through the glazed par-
tition towards the altar. That is then: chief con-
The kneeling women rose and bent over the
sufferers. Reginald heard faint moans and saw
hands holding lint and unrolling bandages. On a
bed near him he saw an old woman whose profile
was turned to the light, revealing the ravages of
the terrible malady. The volunteer nurse who was
ministering to her touched the poor, disfigured
face with a tenderness, a pity, which seemed to
draw her soul to her finger-tips — ^with the touch,
timid but sure, of one who wills, who implores,
and who loves.
As the pure youthful profile of the nurse bent
close above the ravaged cheek of the sick woman,
Reginald drew back with a start of surprise and
"It is not possible!" he cried. "^Who is that
"A lady from the great world — one of those of
whom I told you."
"I recognise her; it is the Comtesse de Soret,
is it not?"
"It is," assented his guide.
"A strange country!" he said to himself, as he
124 THE BARRIER
took his departure, his soul stirred to its depths.
''Such deeck as these are the real foundations of
Paris, which sustain the whole edifice. An in-
comprehensible country until we discover who are
its perpetual redeemers. These sublime women!
and so simple with it all I What is it that carries
them to such victorious heights? Nothing exists
alone. From what underlying power does this
force proceed, surpassmg mere hiunan pity?^'
And he recalled the windows looking towards the
altar, and saw again the eyes and hands of the
Comtesse de Soret.
On the following Thursday he ordered dinner
at half-past six, a proceeding which excited the
mirth of the landlord, and the exasperation of
the chef. But he pursued his way unmindful of
the laughter and the grumbling which are the in-
evitable accompaiiiment of our daUy doings.
At seven he proceeded to the nearest Metro-
politan station on the Champs-Elys6es, having
received minute instructions as to changing cars at
the l^oile station and again at the Place d'ltalie,
thence by tramway to Bic6tre. This was the sort
of journey he liked, with no companion to whom
he must talk. He watched the Paris houses
gradually diminishing in height, and the suburbs
stretching out interminably, with their big fac-
tories and waste spaces, the streets assuming a
redder hue as tiles replaced slates; the huge ware-
houses stored with iron, coal, oil, and lumber, and
interspersed with little gardens stuck like tiny
green feathers between the brick walls, all re-
callmg the suburbs of many another city.
THE BARRIER 125
Beyond the fortifications, fields appeared where
the grass had air enough to live, and where the
roadsides were bordered by lines of waggons, un-
harnessed or without wheels, forming nomad
villages where thousands of hmnan beings were
encamped. The tramway carried him out still
further to where these movable huts were replaced
again by decent houses, inhabited by the poorer
labourers and superannuated workmen. On
alighting at the spot indicated in his directions,
Reginald inquired of a stout, bare-headed matron
whom he met, the way to the church.
"With that accent you must have come a long
way,'* she said. "But as to the church, that is
another matter. You are right upon it, across the
Having crossed the road, Reginald found him-
self in front of a rough-cast stone wall, surmounted
by a green trellis; on the right was a rusty iron
door over which was the inscription, "figlise
Several women were entering and Reginald,
passing in with them, crossed a narrow courtyard
on one side of which stood the Church of the
Kremlin, a long brick building with a sheet-iron
roof, resembling a bowling alley.
It was apparently a temporary structure, and
one of the women whom he questioned replied:
"Oh, yes, it was only opened in 1907. There was
a smaller one here formerly, but for a long time
we had no church. This is a poor quarter where
people merely lodge, just perch for the night, you
know, like a flock of sparrows, and are off to
126 THE BARRIER
work by daybreak. But we were glad enough to
have a church of our own once more. They put
their seals on the little one — ^the one we had before,
ah, ces cochons! ''
Reginald had already entered the hall decorated
with stacks of tri-colored flags, when he heard
a parting shot from the woman behind him:
"They must be well scared to make them think of
us poor people ces cochonsV And as she spoke
she dipped her fingers in the holy water. Half-
way across the church Reginald met a tall young
priest, with deep-set black eyes which looked out
from cavernous hollows like those of a death's
head, yet the eyes were alive and full of kindness.
Seeing that he was a stranger, the priest said to
him: "They come in such crowds that you cannot
stand here without taking some one's place, but if
you will come this way. Monsieur, I will show you
where you can see very well." And so saying he
led him to a vacant space in the choir where stood
a chair and a prie-dieu, doubtless the abb6's own.
The building was now thronged, the women on
the gospel side and the men on the epistle side,
like human furrows — ^poor clods of the same suf-
fering humanity, yet with souls full of good-will,
waiting for the Sower to scatter the seed, ready to
receive it and let it germinate within them.
Reginald stood gazing down upon them from
the slight elevation of the choir, whence he could
see mothers with babies cradled in the nest formed
by their arm and bosom, aged veterans wearing
the triumphant moustaches of the Empire, push-
ing before them curly-headed, neatly clad urchins
THE BARRIER 127
of three or four, young workmen trooping in, gaunt
and lean, and fQnging themselves into a chair with-
out kneeling, ignorant of the courtesies of the
place. Children were huddled around the com-
munion-table, crying and whimpering as though
in the nursery. On the steps of the altar and filling
the choir sat a group of young men with musicJ
instruments in their hands or on their knees. A
missionary mounted the pulpit, whereupon the
young abb6 with the deep-set eyes, who was sitting
beside Reginald, bent over him and said:
"That is the band from the Grand Montrouge
which comes all the way over here to lend beauty
to our services. See, they have hurried! It is a
long distance, and they came the moment they
could get away from the shops and factories.^' A
half-dozen of the musicians had risen and sud-
denly a fanfare burst forth, spirited, true, and
with a martial sound that thrilled the blood.
When the flourish was over the Englishman re-
marked by way of applause :
"They have good lungs for Frenchmen!"
"Thank you, yes. We have a few such left,"
responded the abb6.
The missionary had begun his discourse; with-
out any graces of oratory he explained simply and
clearly to his ignorant auditors certain points of
doctrine; and in addressing these toil-worn work-
men, whose naturally quick wits were stimulated
rather than shocked by the humour of the fau-
bourgs, he did not disdain to mingle an occasional
pleasantry with words that appealed to their
hearts. From time to time another missionary
128 THE BARRIER
rose and offered some argument to be refuted by
him. Reginald listened with attention^ but gazed
still more attentively, now at the audience, now
at the priest who for weeks had been speaking daily
to these gropmg souls who were drawn together
by a mysterious attraction, like a flock of birds —
linnets, blackbirds, sparrows, and tiny finches with
outstretched bills — ^fluttering about the charmer
who whistles to them through a folded ivy-leaf.
''The man of whatever social class," pondered
Reginald, "who gives up family life for the sake
of ministering to these poor creatures must be an
ardent and devoted soul, a sort of maiden-knight
who has given himself wholly to the service of hu-
manity. He is the real friend of the indifferent,
often hostile faubourg. What self-sacrifice! He
voluntarily becomes one of them, bringing to them
the riches of his faith and seeking to make them
sharers in his strength and hope "
As he mused thus, Reginald became more deeply
absorbed in studying the faces of these Paris work-
ingmen, and trying to understand them.
One tall young fellow, with dreamy eyes, es-
pecially attracted him. He felt, as he looked at
him, as if he were becoming the friend of this
unknown who seemed a stranger even to those
about him, and who showed plainly by the doubt,
astonishment, and emotion contending in his face
that he was listening for the first time to words
which reveal to the human soul its wretchedness
and its nobility.
''Where do you come from, poor boy?" he
thought. "He is at the age when the mere flut-
THE BARRIER 129
tering of a woman's skirt as she passes, makes the
heart beat faster. All the life around him draws
him away from the church, seizes him and holds
him — ^how has he escaped to come here? He
entered alone, he looked at no one as he took his
seat between a half-tipsy vagabond, evidently
one of the submerged, and that huge hulking
fellow, a sort of good-natured animal, as ready to
serve his Maker as the ox in the stall. But the
lad! that passionate, ardent youth I what power
is it that has moved him more strongly than
pleasure? How beautiful is the emotion in his
facel St. John, the disciple nearest to Christ's
heart, had eyes like his — eyes which guided by
love look deeply into the invisible.'*
The violins and comets began to play again.
"Is it still the Montrouge band?" he asked his
guide. "Yes," replied the sbh6.
"And who is that youth in the fourth row? I
have been watching him a long time. He has
grasped everything; he is half Ul with emotion.
One can see that he has depth of soul."
"Such feeling is far from uncommon among the
youth of our faubourgs," replied the priest after
glancing at the young man, and Reginald saw that
his shadowy eyes were moist. "Yes, it is often
so, but his pallor comes from himger, too. That
is ten o'clock striking now."
"And has he eaten nothing since noon?" Regi-
"No. Many of them come here fasting. They
have not had time to go home first, you see.
They come directly from the workshops to the
130 THE BARRIER
church. I could easily point them out by their
"What good work you are domg among them I
This parish is new, is it not?"
"Yes, and the church is newer still. Thirteen
have been opened since the separation. Look,
your friend is leaving."
The pale young workingman had risen list-
lessly, and stretched his long arms. He had a
smile on his lips as he gazed around on the crowd
in which he was being swept along; and yet,
surely his brow and his heart were still bathed in
floods of divine love.
Calls, laughter, and good-nights were exchanged
amid the throng of men and women who now
congregated in the shadow of the doorway. The
evening air refreshed the faces weary from pro-
longed attention, and all opened theu* lungs to
breathe it in more fully.
"Look here, Lerouxl" cried one, "aren't you
famished? I have had no dinner yet."
"Neither have I."
"Come along with me. I have got some
"That's not enough."
' ' Vve got some meat, too. Let us share it. We
are old chums, you know. Where are you living
now? I never see you any more."
"I live down this way," and the two drifted
The night was already dark when Reginald
found himself alone on the sidewalk, the tram-
car making a solitary island of light in the sur-
THE BARRIER 131
rounding obscurity. Having alighted at the
ifitoile station, he started on foot for his hotel in
the Avenue d'Antin.
His mind was filled with that diffused and ir-
radiating glow left within us by great thoughts
and inspiring spectacles. The beauty of the
night scenery of Paris, which he knew so well,
appeared to him as something new. He en-
joyed the sensation of being alone amidst the
throng of vehicles and foot-passengers, with the
emotions of the last few hours still possessing
He felt thankful that he had come to this city,
and he found himself replying in spirit to the
arguments and sarcasms he had so often listened
to among his comrades, both in London and in
India, upon the corrupting influences of Paris.
''But you have not seen everything," he was
saying. "There is a higher life already existing
in this life, and those who are not privileged to
see it judge the world incompletely."
The joy of youth surged through his veins as
though he were drinking mountain-air, while the
exercise of walking made his blood tingle after the
stifling atmosphere of the cars and the crowded
He left the Champs Elys^es behind him reluc-
tantly, but as he turned into the Avenue d'Antin
he chose the left-hand side-walk, so that on looking
up he could see the lighted windows of a certain
third-floor apartment. He paused beneath them.
Behind one of these windows a young girl was still
awake, the only French girl he had ever really
132 THE BARRIER
known. Was she not more than that to him?
Yes, she was the one woman to whom in an hour
of deep mental distress he had confided his inmost
thoughts and feelings.
She had never recalled, in the remotest way,
their interview in the woods of Redhall ; she had
shown herself worthy of the confidence he had
reposed in her. A feeling of tenderness, vejy pure
and warm, filled his heart. It was but for a mo-
ment and he instantly reproached himself for
allowing such thoughts to interfere with the
purpose upon which his whole soul was now con-
centrated. His respect for the aim he had set
himself and his instincts as a man of action alike
prompted him to keep to the path upon which he
had entered. He passed his hand across his brow,
as if to dispel such sweet dreams. A sentence
from the Psalms crossed his memory, for he had
been brought up in close familiarity with the
Scriptures: "Confirm a right spirit within me."
Yes, that was what he needed; to be confirmed
in the right spirit — ^the royal spirit. And he turned
his thoughts once more to the sight he had wit-
nessed that evening in the poor church of the
On the following Saturday, the twenty-sixth
of June, F6licien Limerel was returning by the
Champs Elys6es from a visit to one of his dip-
lomatic chiefs, who lived near the Bois de
Boulogne. His reception had been a flattering
one; the conversation had turned chiefly upon
the subject of his future, and had been filled
with those amiable predictions which do not
THE BARRIER 133
commit the prophet to any special efforts for
bringing them to pass.
*'You are the first among a brilliant set of
candidates/' his chief had remarked. *'The
minister to whom I was speaking this morning
of your success said — ^this is strictly between us,
you understand — 'A name without a flaw and the
manners of a gentleman. That is what we need
in a democracy. The old noblesse are valuable
to us, no doubt, but are not to be relied on, as they
do not owe everything to us. This young man
has impressed me most favourably.' "
Sugared words, such as had served for many
othersl But F61icien was still young and he
Shortly after leaving the house, however, his
thoughts turned into other channels and re-
echoed other words, whose power far surpassed
that of these idle flatteries. Pangs of the heart
trembling for its threatened love came first, but
more torturing still was the self-questioning that
"Ought I to condemn myself? — ^to decree my
own rm^?-and doubly, toofSice in renouncing
Marie I renounce at the same time the faith of
my fathers? Marie put me on my honour and I
gave her my promise. But what cruelty! To
force me to a self-examination before which, after
all, most men, older and wiser than myself, would
recoil. How many live on without ever drawing
up the account of their moral defeats or their re-
ligious backslidingsl How many never think of
these things till they are on their death-beds, and
134 THE BARRIER
some not even then I Why must I weigh myself
before the hour and confess that I am found want-
ing? And if I condemn mjrself I shall meet with no
pardon. Marie trasts to my sincerity — ^and that
is the worst of all. Not to be able to deceive 1
Not to know how! No, Marie, I will not lie to
you. But why has this question arisen so imperi-
ously between us? It is since her return from
London and the arrival of this Englishman. '\
What does he want here? I suspect him of being
in love with her, too. Ah, if I find him guilty of
that trick I Of playing the bigot and feigning
piety in order to ingratiate himself with Marie
and my aunt I What do they know about him,
after all? He and I are being silently compared,
I am sure of it. If he is not an actual rival, he is
the ideal hero, the model that I am far from being.
He is beginning to irritate me, that fellow, and
he appears to have no suspicion of it. But I
can soon show him. I have promised to call."
And as the young man turned into the Rue La
Bo6tie he said to himself: *^I can easily find out
what he has in his mind and what he wants."
And he entered the Hotel Powers. The clerk
telephoned and received the answer that M.
Limerel might go up at once. As he entered the
little salon, Reginald came forward to meet his
guest with extended hand and no appearance
''I must beg you to excuse the disorder of
my rooms," he said, *'as my man has not had
time to finish packing." And in fact a pile of '^
garments, neatly folded, was Ijdng on a sofa.
THE BARRIER 135
The young men entered into conversation at
once, but Reginald, remembering the Limerel din-
ner and the sarcastic reception accorded to his
account of his excursions among the charitable
institutions of Paris, replied to F61icien^s ques-
tions with a studied reserve which would have
seemed scarcely civil if it had not been tempered
by look and manner.
At last F61icien asked impatiently:
''By the way, you saw my aunt yesterday?"
''OhI The day before, then?"
"No. She is well, I hope. You have had no
bad news from her? "
"None whatever," replied F^licien, with rising
irritation. "And if there had been, you, being so
near a neighbour, would doubtless have heard it
"Not unless the messenger mistook his way,"
replied the Englishman calmly.
The directness and sincerity of his tone checked
F^licien, who began to realise that if this man
had a secret he would certainly not allow it to be
drawn from him by sarcasms and light skirmishing.
"Well," he remarked, changing his tactics with
the pliancy which was one of the charms as well
as dangers of his temperament, "I imagine that
you have brought your charitable investigations
to an end."
"Not at all," returned Reginald.
"What I Not yet? It must be a wager then.
At your age, to pass a fortnight in Paris visiting
nothing but churches and hospitals I"
136 THE BARRIER
''Pardon me, bat if I find more that appeals
to me and stirs my mind in such sights than in
museums and theatres, why not? We are not all
obliged to look at things in the same way. At
this moment these essential and vital subjects
occupy me exclusively. You are probably unin-
terested in religious speculations/*
"You are mistaken."
The Englishman made a deprecating gesture
as if to say: *'I do not insist. I should be sorry
to go too far. I merely meant to express a pos-
sible difference between us," and resumed with a
new accent of courteous interest:
*'I am preparing to go to Montmartre this even-
ing, to spend the night in the Basilica."
"Can that be done?" asked F^licien.
A smile from across the Channel, a barely per-
ceptible movement at the comers of the smooth-
shaven lips which would not have been noticed
beneath a Frenchman's moustache, betrayed
Reginald's surprise, but he made no rejoinder.
F^licien, however, asked for no explanation; his
expression suddenly changed, ' and under the
sway of some influence which his interlocutor could
not divine, his irritation vanished for the time, as
he asked earnestly:
"Will you allow me to accompany you?"
"To Montmartre? Certainly. You can be my
guide there if you will. On our arrival I shall find
a person awaiting me to whom I have brought a
letter of introduction."
"I shall not be in your way, then?"
"Not m the least."
THE BARRIER 137
F^licien added in a lower tone, as though speak-
ing to himself:
" It is strange enough. You are going out there
in search of a faith: I to find out if I still possess
The Englishman inclined his head, inwardly
moved by this sort of moral resemblance, and
struck by the sudden gravity of F61icien's tone.
They did not pursue the subject further, but both
understood that this night's experience was to
have a decisive influence over their destiny. For
the next few hours they were to be united, in spite
of the dissimilarity of their natures, by a like
noble impulse, a religious inspiration, and this
was a motive for mutual esteem.
But Reginald abandoned himself far more
readily than F^licien to this influence, being free
from all jealousy, and his yearning after truth
unmixed with personal motives.
F61icien's mental suffering had other less ex-
alted causes, and was due not so much to his loss
of faith as to the possible consequences of avow-
ing it. The motives guiding his actions left him
a prey to perplexity without aspiration, sufficient
oiJy to lead him for a few hours into the com-
pany of the saints where silent miracles of grace
might be looked for. Both men were tr5ring a
spiritual experiment, but only one was seeking
the light for its own sake.
"It is agreed then," said the Englishman; "at
a quarter after eight you will find me in the
salon downstairs, and we will take a carriage at
138 THE BARRIER
*^My father would laugh at me if I told him
where I am about to spend the night. He would
not believe me — and it does, in fact, seem incredi-
ble — so I cannot ask him to lend me his car,
though I often borrow it on less worthy pretexts.
This evening, then."
F61icien had another reason for not communi-
cating his plan to his father. M. Limerel, being
accustomed as a man of business to read men's
minds and detect their motives of self-interest,
would have suspected at the first word the con-
nection between Montmartre and Marie Limerel,
and have felt convinced that Reginald never
would have gone there except for her sake, and
probably at her instigation.
About nine o'clock, accordingly, the two young
men reached the foot of the stairs which ascend
the hill of Montmartre. It had been raining, and
a cold wind, the final gust of a retreating storm,
drove the clouds in tattered shreds towards the
south, while the white domes of the Basilica soared ^
into the pure azure above.
Before entering at the little door which opened
in the midst of scaffoldings, they both turned to
look back for a moment. Paris spread below
them like a rose-tinted plain, barred across its
whole extent by a scarf of soft mists, the farther
end of which rested upon the slopes of Belleville
and M4nilmontant. And above this bank of fog
and smoke the sky was swept clear, a spotless
pathway for the young moon. On the heights
the last gleam of day was slowly fading, while
below, in that valley of hewn stones, lines of
THE BARRIER 139
twinkling lights traced to the limits of the horizon
a prodigious network of streets and avenues.
On entering the precincts of the church, the
young men found a man awaiting them, who had
evidently been notified of the Englishman's visit.
"I regret, gentlemen,'' he said, "that there is no
one to present me to you. I am Louis Proudon,
president of the society of Les Pauvres de
"He is evidently a gentleman," thought Regi-
nald, as he gazed at him attentively for a moment.
He was a man of medium height, thin, and stoop-
ing slightly, whose delicate, bearded face, some-
what severe in outline, was lighted up by the
smile of one who voluntarily submits bia will to
that of others — ^the gentleness of the strong.
"I will guide you over the Basilica," he said.
"We will first attend the Adoration of the Poor,
then I will take you to the chapel where the gen-
eral service of adoration takes place. Whenever
you desire it you can go to the rooms reserved for
you and rest. You are young for a night of vigil.
One has to get used to it. You have never been
"I have not, since the evening of my bacca-
laureate," replied F61icien. "And you. Monsieur,
do you not sleep at all during the night?"
The President of the Poor smiled. "Oh, no," he
replied. "It is necessary, you see, to have some
one awake whenever the hour strikes, to summon
each new party to take their turn in the service.
It is a little hard at first, but one gets used to it,
I assure you."
140 THE BARRIER
He spoke simply^ as he led his guests mto the
donnitory, where several poor, dejected lookmg
men were seated, like soldiersi on the edge of their
camp-beds, awaiting the bowl of soup which was
soon brought to them, with a slice of white bread
and a glass of red wine. F^licien was inclined to
prolong this visit which distracted his mind from
what was to follow. But Reginald, who had not
the same apprehensions in regard to the silent
vigU in the church, hastened on. Happily the
ordeal did not begm at once.
Between the building they were now visiting
and the church itself stretched a sort of postern
path, damp and grass-grown, lined on each side by
the enormous piers which support the edifice, and
open to the sky overhead. Here Reginald said,
with a slight laugh, "Pardon me, but this will be
our last chance to smoke a cigarette,^' and drawing
from his pocket a silver case stamped with the
arms of Oxford, he offered it to each of his com-
panions in turn, and the smoke of three cigarettes
soon mingled with the night air.
At a little past nine, standing side by side in
the crypt, and leaning against the same pillar,
Reginald and F61icien were gazing upon a spec-
tacle equally new to them both. Reginald was
farther forward in the half-light, and F61icien
behind him in the shadow close by the stairway
leading from the subterranean church to the
upper nave. ' They were motionless, and scarcely
visible on the outskirts of the brightly lighted
space before the altar, encircled by low, heavy
pillars. In this luminous half-circle some forty
THE BARRIER 141
men were kneeling. Their leader, the fraternal
Louis Proudon, standing close to the altar-rail,
was reading the evening prayers aloud to them
from a small book which he held in his hand, and
all at once they began uttering the responses
in rude, hoarse voices, strangely unlike hw — ^the
voice of the mob which shouts, sings, curses,
threatens, and which was now praying.
Then the men sang a hynm together, and kneel-
ing or seated, joined in worship with unspoken
words which they could not have originated, but
must have revived from far-ofif memories, or
received from Him to whom they now looked up.
What power had they to make prayers for them-
selves? What did they know beyond their pov-
erty and the needs of a heart that could still love?
They were rapt and attentive as those who
await the passing of a bridal procession beneath
the porch. Their eyelids were but partly raised, on
account of the dazzling light and their weariness.
Reginald and F^licien examined these counte-
nances which showed little change of expression,
except where some moving thought or memory
rose clearly from the depths of their obscure souls.
As they gazed, our young men understood more
clearly that these were not only the genuinely
poor, but the utterly wretched, those who excite
fear rather than pity, vagabonds with rough
beards torn by battling with the winds and worn
by the stones which had served as their pillow,
clothed in miserable rags, some with coarse
mufflers wound about their necks in spite of the
heat, because they were wearing all the clothing
142 THE BARRIER
they owned. Doubtless the thieves of Calvary were
here; but chiefly the outcast, those destitute of
bread, of shelter, without families and without
hope, were watching at the feet of the Master
whom they had found.
Many of those sad eyes — ^the eyes of the de-
spised, in which hate takes up its dwelling — ^were
raised now and softened for a brief moment;
then the rusty door of their souls closed again.
Behind the two young men, the President of the
Poor had drawn near, and now murmured in a
scarcely audible voice but with a note of tender-
''You see that man who is standing on the edge
of the circle, the dark, bald man, with a little
colour in his cheeks — ^he is almost rich now. He
has often slept under the bridges and fed on the
leavings from the restaurants, but at present he
is a sort of aristocrat, having a small public em-
plojmient. He makes a living by gluing, direct-
ing, and stamping newspaper wrappers — an ex-
ceptional thing here. But he is good, he does not
forget us, and since he gave up begging he has
never failed to come here to pass every Saturday
night with his old street companions."
Some of the men were yawning now, without
disguise, and others were falling asleep. There
were wistful gleams here and there from beneath
the heavy eyelids.
Proudon resumed: "Those two with hollow
cheeks, side by side in the middle, look! one of
them has just dropped ofif, and it is only right
that he diould, poor fellow 1 You would not
THE BARRIER 143
believe what excellent men they are. They
are glass-blowers who work all ni^t keeping up
the fires. Their only free night is Saturday, and
they spend it here. The older one came first and
said to the other on Sunday when he went back to
work: 'I have never rested so well as last night,
and yet I only slept by snatches in a chair. I will
take you along with me next Saturday. ' "
As he spoke, Louis Proudon was already ascend-
ing the steps leading from the crypt into the
choir of the Basilica. The immense nave was in
shadow as he led them in the direction where all
the life of the place was centred — ^the chapel of
the Virgin behind the high altar, where the sacra-
ment was exposed. He left them at the entrance,
"Your rooms are ready and you can go to them
when you like. You may depend upon me to call
you in the morning.'*
F61icien was standing nearest to the aisle, with
Reginald directly behind him, while before them
was gathered a throng of between two and three
hundred men. They were not singing, but stand-
ing silently, all these human souls, absorbed in
the contemplation of one object, to which the
attention of the new-comers was drawn as imperi-
ously by the force of their united thought as rays
of light are attracted towards their eternal source.
This mysterious force which emanates from a
deeply absorbed multitude sweeps all before it like
a mighty wind, thrilling the soul as it is borne
along. F61icien had less need than Reginald of
being swept away on this irresistible current.
144 THE BARRIER
Early memories, mingled emotions of defiance and
regret, drew his eyes towards the monstrance and
the Host within.
He fixed his long unaccustomed gaze upon it,
asking nothing, simply yielding himself to the
old experience ; and as he did so, he acquired the
conviction that nothing stirred within him. He
was grieved to find himself so unmoved except by
the one thought:
"Must I own to Marie that I cannot pray?
That I cannot weep except for her or, rather,
for mjrself ? Must I tell her this? The very saints
themselves have had their moments of spiritual
He turned his eyes away, but thoughts no less
cruel assailed him. ''I was not always like this;
a spring has dried up within me. Words once full
of meaning are empty now. I feel by the coldness
of my heart that all fraternity is dissolved be-
tween me and those who worship ; I am no longer
one of them. To-night is not the first time that I
• have been conscious of this change, but what over-
powering evidence at last!"
He yearned to find that he was not the only in-
different one, and his eyes turned from one to
another of the men on their knees around him.
All were praying. There was one close beside him
whose lips did not move, but whose eyes were
raised to the altar and who never stirred. As
F^licien watched him, a mist seemed to pass
across his eyes like a cloud of incense, then they
resumed their limpid, deeply rapt gaze. F^licien
stole a glance at Reginald, who was standing mo-
THE BARRIER 145
tionless with folded arms^ and who, on Ins side,
was sa3dng to himself:
"These men belong to all clasaes except the very-
poorest. They come here without ambition or
any hope of human reward, and yet they receive
a compensation for tiie physical repose they sacri-
fice. Their souls find a support which is revealed
in their faces. They have found peace — some-
thing at least of that peace which we all pursue,
and which flees before us. It is here, for them
/^Yes, they are sincere. Every night men are
watching and praying on the mountain above
Paris; perhaps mysteriously protecting the city.
What a contrast to all the corruption below!
Such contrasts were absent from the old civiliza-
And he thought of all he had read of the cor-
ruptions of Babylon, the insolence, the lust, the
cruel barbarity which held such countless women,
rich and poor, in bondage, for whom there was no
true life, only a blighted spring without maturity
and an unendurable old age. He thought again:
"Can it be possible that through the prayers
of these worshippers other men may be redeemed
— ^their kindred, their friends, their enemies
even? Are they like clouds carrying their grate-
ful moisture to the ends of the earth? What a
noble idea of power 1 What a dominion wider
than all earthly kingdoms!"
At this moment F^icien bent forward and
spoke to him:
"I am going. Will you come, too?"
146 THE BARRIER
"We will meet, then, at daybreak."
F^licien lingered a moment, thinking that
Reginald might decide to follow him; then he
pa^ed out of the church, and his retreating step
echoed along the flag-stones outside.
Reginald's meditation continued: "They do not
doubt that they are in the presence of the Christ
transfigured by love — of a divine presence min-
gling with the throng, close to all human misery.
That would indeed be the supreme consolation;
humanity calls for such a presence. It is lacking
to such as we — a, wider chasm separates us from
him than from these worshippers. Perhaps they
see him in vision, these men with the rapt faces!
Why these temples, if we cannot hold God within
them? There where Christ is nearest, truth must
be. To have Christ within us — ^not merely grace,
Words from the gospel come back to his memory,
from the old Bible whose binding had been worn
by generations of his fcimily, seeking to compre-
hend what is meant for all. Memories of Red-
hall assailed him. How they wounded the heart
which yet did not try to turn away from them!
The forest, the pond, the ivy-covered walls, the
rhododendrons in bloom, the old castle, the faces
above all, passed before the young man as he stood
so long upright and motionless like one on guard
before his king on some grand levee day. The
images were so clear, the words interchanged be-
fore his departure retained so distinctly their very
THE BARRIER 147
tone and sequence, that a great grief overpowered
He was alone at night, in a church in France,
where none of the beings dearest to him could
follow him in thought, lost, forgotten, the only
stranger perhaps, certainly the only heretic, in
that throng. Why, he asked himself, did he re-
main there? and he would have been unable to
give a satisf)dng answer.
He gazed insistently on the sacred wafer amidst
its golden rasrs — a sort of spell kept his eyes fixed
upon it. A secret and gentle will which he felt to
be perfectly reasonable, controlled him and kept
his heart and spirit open, like casements to the air
Reginald experienced anew, amidst these Catho-
lic surroundings, the child's first, consciousness
that he has a soul which he raises with reverence
to God, such a feeling as he had experienced
in his early childhood when his father was reading
the Book aloud at evening in the chapel at Red-
hall. But there mingled with it a new thrill of
emotion, an impulse towards somethmg higher,
a splendid inspiration.
He thought: *'This is the overthrow of rebel-
lious reason, but the triumph of the loftiest wis-
dom and love. What if He were here present,
impossible to recognise until he spoke, as in the
garden of the sepulchre he appeared to Mary
Magdalen, who supposing him to be the gardener
cried: 'Have you seen Mm?' She saw him and
yet sought him still. Oh, to ask from him
strength, life, the way!"
148 THE BARRIER
He was not weary of standing, yet his knees
bent and he remained for a time kneeling, without
turning his eyes from the Host before which
his doubt prayed as did the faith of those others.
He rose at last. His companions had paid
no attention to his movements. Other men came
up as the clock struck, to take their hour of
watching. He left his place without another
glance, agitated by happy emotions, and sought
the chamber reserved for him in one of the build-
ings adjoining the Basilica. His bed was too
short and hard for sleep to come at once. He had
supposed that at this height above Paris he
should hear the intermittent roar of the city like
the murmur of the sea, and this fancy had not been
without its influence on his i^lve to spend a
night at Montmartre.
But he was disappointed. Instead of a sound
like the rise and fall of the tide, absolute silence
reigned, broken only by the shriek of locomotives
from the Gare du Nord. Benumbed by fatigue,
Reginald fancied himself on a sailing-vessel,
perched aloft in the rigging, hearing orders
shouted back and forth on the decks below. At
times a deep thunderous sound rose from the
depths of the ocean, without his being able to
divine where the monstrous surge would break.
And that other cry, far ofif, despairing, was it not
the signal of a vessel in distress? Then all tumult
died away; the vision of the sea faded into deep
slumber. The wind subsided as it had risen,
and Montmartre, with the millions, waking or
sleeping, around it, was as silent as the tomb.
THE BARRIER 149
Reginald was sleeping profoundly when M.
Louis Proudon knocked at his door, crying:
"It is a quarter after three, Monsieur the Eng-
lishman whose name I cannot recall! It is time
Shortly afterwards the three men were ascend-
ing the flight of stone steps leading to the roof of
the Basilica, F61icien having joined them. He
was pale, and the flashing eyes which lent such
animation to his countenance were veiled by
fatigue, or some other cause.
"A glorious morning," exclaimed Reginald,
pointing to the horizon.
"A glacial morning," responded F61icien, "and
if it is the same to you, we will not linger here
"Very well; as you please."
F^licien shook the hand which the Englishman
held out to him, but with so little cordiality that
the latter noticed it, filled as his mind was with
thronging impressions; but he merely said to him-
self: "It is the loss of sleep; his ill-humour will
soon pass." And deciding that Frenchmen had
very little endurance, he pursued his way along
the gutters at the edge of the tiled roof. Their
guide next preceded them up an inner stairway
leading to the gallery which surrounds the central
dome above the great stained-glass windows.
Reginald, emerging first, called back: "M. Limerel,
come quickly 1 It is splendid, really splendid!"
Slowly he began to make the tour of that
lofty ch£min de ronde, suspended in mid-air, and
paused to look out at each opening in the parapet*
150 THE BARRIER
''It is indeed a rare morning," murmured
Reginald. "All Paris is visible as London never
is. Yes, the city is not so vast that one cannot see
the country beyond. What is that to the north? "
'The plain beyond St. Denis," replied M.
Proudon, ''and those dark streaks far away to the
left are the forest of St. Germain."
"It is the last moment of the morning twilight,"
resumed Reginald. "See! Paris has no artificial
lights now except at the railway stations, where
the signals are still burning. The city is khaki-
colour; it is like an immense flat ant-heap, or an
open stretch of ploughed land, sprinkled with tiny
pebbles which are buildings and green leaves which
are gardens. And what a sky above it ! " Long
streamers of transparent mist floated above the
houses, partly dissolving in the breeze from the
west, but in the east they united to form a heavy
bank of violet fog which rested over Belleville.
There the summit of tte fog-bank turned to rose-
colour at the spot where the sun was about to
pierce it, then to blood-red. Elsewhere the sky
was swept clear by a keen wind, and close to them
rose an aerial island, milky-white, formed by
the roofs with their lace-like pinnacles, and the
domes crowned with slender spires, of the Basilica
"We are above the zone of blackening smoke,"
said Reginald, who was leaning over the parapet,
not far from Fflicien. " How transparently white
this stone is. The church seems built of ala-
baster. It is blessing Paris in the splendour of
the daybreak. Ah, there is the sun!"
THE BARRIER - 151
"The sun," said F61icien. "Well, why do you
greet it like that?"
Reginald did not hear, absorbed in the spec-
tacle before him. The edges of the canopy rolled
up by the mist were turned to a vast pomegranate
flower, then to a marigold, and now, ma^ificent
and dazzling as it was, it had become as noth-
ing, for above it rose the full orb of day. A
moment, and it was completely free. A few of
the loftier edifices below them caught the light,
while the houses were still wrapt in shadow;
close at hand the summit of one of the smaller
domes seemed to blossom like a tuft of stone,
then turn to flame.
"You speak like a worshipper," said F^licien.
"You are growing lyrical."
His voice was harsher than its wont, and be-
trayed sufifering. He had risen and was leaning
against one side of a pillared opening in the para-
pet, while Reginald stood on the opposite side.
His cheek was pale, even in the fludi of dawn,
and his face was set and sad.
"You are becoming a Catholic!" he exclaimed
Reginald, who had made no reply to the first
attack, now responded quickly:
"I cannot let you assert what is not the fact. I
have been deeply moved, it is true. Such a morn-
ing following such a night ! But the other thing is
not true. Should you not be glad for me, however,
if it were?"
"You surprise me!"
152 THE BARRIER
"It is possible that I may surprise you, but it
is best that we should understand each other,
and indeed I wish it."
Fflicien's tone had grown so vehement that
Reginald slowly turned to face him. In that nar-
row space, that cell of light into which the two
men had mounted to watch the sun rise over
Paris, they now fronted each other like ad-
versaries, Fflicien resolved on demanding an
explanation, Reginald taken by surprise and
torn abruptly from his mood of enthusiasm.
*'Yes, I wish you to know the depths of my
heart. You need not protest. I tell you that I
wish it. It is not perhaps so noble as yours, nor
SO pure and sublime, and it is certainly less
happy, but it will interest you nevertheless. You
must know then that I have been wrestling all
night with the same problem which apparently
''Not apparently but actually," said Reginald.
"Well, for me no hope has dawned, no new
strength has come to my aid. On the contrary,
my doubts have increased. I have retraced the
course of my life with startling lucidity, and have
found myself much farther removed from my
devout youth than I had thought."
"I am sorry for you. Monsieur."
"You ought to rejoice."
"How could I, when I see you suflFering?"
"Yes, but you also see me conquered already.
You may conclude that the advantage is with
you. I know your secret, and from the first day
we met I have seen through your schemes."
THE BARRIER 153
"Your attentions to my cousin and your pious
excursions over the city. These are closely re-
lated terms, are they not?"
He drew nearer as he spoke, and bent forward.
The muscles of his jaw and the veins in his forehead
and temples stood out beneath the skin, heighten-
ing the look of anger in his face as he cried: ''You
must be in haste to descend and to be alone with
your happiness. You are waited for. As soon
as it is broad daylight you will hasten to my aunt
Limerel's to give an account of your night-watch.
And you know how it will be received. Do not
deny it! Yours is the devotion pleasing to my
Reginald had scarcely stirred, even when
F^licien touched him with his quivering finger-
tips. Standing very upright, with his back to the
wall and his face impassible, he had merely raised
his clenched hands towards his breast in case he
should be attacked. After the last words had
died away in silence, he replied deliberately:
"You are inventing all this."
"That is easy. to say; prove it!"
"The proof is equally easy. I shall not see
Mme. Limerel, because I am leaving Paris this
"What do you say?"
"I say that I am leaving Paris this morning
by the eleven thirty-nine train."
F^licien gazed fixedly for a moment at the man
who thus briefly spumed any implication of treach-
ery. He divined — ^he felt convinced — ^that this
154 THE BARRIER
rival who had crossed his path was an absolutely
loyal nature whom he had insulted with his unjust
suspicions. He turned pale and his eyes filled aa
he held out his hand, saying:
^Tardon me. I have misjudged you. I am
Then, not wishing to break down utterly and
fearing that further words would betray his
emotion he turned back to the opening through
which the morning light streamed in. Reginald
did likewise, and both remained silent, the rays
of the sun forming an impalpable barrier between
them. Louis Proudon, leaning on the balustrade
at a little distance off, had not heard their colloquy,
or at least had not understood it. His thoughts
were absorbed in his poor who would soon be com-
ing from the slums and the outskirts of Paris for
the eight o'clock mass and distribution of bread :
''I shall not have enough for a fine day like this,"
he was saying to himself, ^'only two thousand
pounds of bread. The sunshine brings them all
out; they will gather as thick as ants." And he
rejoiced within himself as he pictured the flight of
steps to the eastward black with the ascending
The silence of the white dome, the breath of wind
which swept by without bringing any murmur of
voices to his ear^ aroused him from his dream.
''Come this way, gentlemen, and let me show
you the forest of St. Germain. It looks from
here like a blue ribbon. You are in luck to have
been here this morning!"
The young men followed him, but as they
THE BARRIER 155
showed little interest in his exfdanations and
asked no questions, he very soon conducted them
down the spiral staircase to the roofs and then into
the church, where he left them.
A few moments later F61icien and Reginald
stopped on the esplanade where the funicular
descends. They had not spoken a word to each
other since their violent altercation above. Regi-
nald paused for one more look over Paris with
the morning light upon it. F^licien stood a little
apart; he had recovered his self-possession, and
his delicate face and fine head, as he bent forward,
with his eyes fixed upon the far-off city, gave
him the aspect of a melancholy poet composing
a stanza. His lips moved as if rehearsing the
words he was about to utter, and at last he spoke,
without turning his eyes from the scene before
him, and with such genuine grief in his tones
that Reginald started:
''So many men mingle human interests with
their search after truth. You do not. I con-
gratulate you. Believe me, since we are about
to separate, you ought to see Marie again."
''But since "
"Yes, I assure you — Not this morning — ^to-
night you had better call on her. This morning
there will be a great change in her life, as in mine.
Oh! you are too proud. I seel • I understand
and I was merely testing you. I owe her the
truth and I have promised to tell her everything,
that is all. It is a terrible thing, Monsieur, to
love a woman with a despairing love like mine.
Well, let us say good-bye."
156 THE BARRIER
They shook hands hastily, and Ranald replied:
"I wish you happiness. Yes, very honestly."
Then each went his own way, and finding a
couple of stray cabs ihey were soon back in the
heart of Paris.
At eight in the morning F^cien rang the bell of
his aunt's house, and the concierge having as-
sured him that the ladies had gpne to early mass
and would soon be at home, he went upstairs to
await them in the vestibule. The maid b^ged
him to enter, but he declined, saying:
''No, I have only a message to ^ve and am
going on. I will wait here."
The truth was that he could not bear to enter
the salon where Marie's portrait hung, nor did he
wish to have her in sight a moment after the
words he had to say were uttered. He felt
already spent and exhausted.
As he stood there, he heard approaching foot-
steps and calm voices on the stairs; the key
turned in the door and Mme. Limerel entered,
followed by Marie.
They both spoke at once, but in di£Ferent tones.
"Is that you, Felicien? so early!" exclaimed
Mme. Limerel, while Marie said:
''Ahl you are here. I understand. Come
She drew him in the half-light, threw back her
veil, and on seeing F61icien's face recoiled, crying:
''No, no, do not come!" and escaped to the ^on,
repeating, "No, not to-day. I cannot bear it."
As Felicien followed her to the door of the salon
THE BARRIER 157
'^I do not want yon to speak so soon! Mamma,
do not let him speak/' and she retreated to the
farthest window, with her face buried in her
Mme. Limerel, standing before F^icien, tried to
hold him back, saying: ^'Do as she begs, F61icien.
''I must," was all he answered.
"To-morrow, if you like, my dear boy. Wait
"No, to-morrow I should not have the
"You have not taken time enough. You do
not know what you will say to her."
"Alas! I do indeed. I shall tell her that no
one will ever love her as I do, since I can give her
up and acknowledge that I am not worthy of her."
"You will give her too much pain."
"The harm is done, since she has seen me.
Let me go to her."
Mme. Limerel had closed the door at the mo-
ment F61icien tried to enter; she now held it
closed while her nephew stood before her, his face
hollowed and drawn by a suffering more cruel
than physical pain; but on this grief-stamped
face, the will was still dominant. The mother
saw that his resolution was final, and that to
oppose him further was merely to struggle against
fate which had set its imprint on F61icien's coxm-
tenance. She drew back saying, "Go to her then,
my poor boy!"
He entered the room and approached Marie
158 THE BARRIER
where she stood by the wmdow. He appeared
like one breathless from running as he leaned
back against the crimson hangings. Her hands
were still pressed across her eyes, and between the
parted wrists her lips could be seen to move. Was
she praying or was she still repeating in tones of
exhaustion, "Not to-day: I cannot bear it.''
He was now close beside her, but the wretched-
ness of each sought a brief respite, the courage of
each strove to gather strength for further suffer-
ing. F61icien, at last, spoke very low:
"Marie, I am not worthy t6 love you as you
wish to be loved. I no longer believe."
She took her hands from her eyes slowly; she
was as white as he, and her lids were half closed.
"What proof have you? I implore you not to
deceive yourself, " she said.
He replied hurriedly, nervously:
"I have reflected for a week, and last night I
watched all night, searching my very soul before
that sacrament which was once as holy to me as
"Oh, be alent!" she cried. "Say no more."
"Marie, I can pray only to you. I no longer
And they looked into each other's eyes, search-
ing each other's souls. He saw her grief; he saw,
also, the gulf between them. He saw the living
faith, the virgin soul, which answered. No.
Then suddenly turning away, he hastened from
the room and out of the house, while Mme. Limerel
entered and threw her arms around her daughter,
THE BARRIER 159
who clung to her weeping and repeating between
her sobs: "Oh, mamma! it is terrible. It is too
cruel! Have I asked too much of him? Tell
me if I have not asked too much!"
M. Victor Limerel had just risen and was seated
at his writing-table in his morning costume, con-
sisting of a grey dressing-gown bordered with red.
The letters which he had already opened, having
been carefully classified, were lying in four piles
of unequal height, pending the arrival of one of
the secretaries of the Soci6t6 Frangaise. He was
glancing at one of the newspapers which had been
brought him with his early mail, when F61icien
entered the room.
"Well, my dear boy, is that you? Where are
"That is what I came to tell you."
"Ah! I know — ^from Montmartre — ^your mother
told me last evening. It is not a bad place, but
you must admit that to spend the whole night
out there, away from your home, without any
reason — Pray explain yourself."
"I had two reasons," F61icien replied, "which
are in fact but one. I went there to consider a
project of marriage."
His father, who up to this moment had con-
tinued, while talking, to glance at the news, laid
his paper aside and looked up at F61icien, whose
aspect was cold and decided and who looked
fully master of himself.
"A project?" he inquired. "Which do you
mean? The one ?"
"Yes, precisely, with my cousin Marie."
160 THE BARRIER
"You know my decision. That marriage can-
not take place/'
''It will not take place, father, because I have
^ven it up."
^'Ah! so much the better. So much the better.
So you are becoming reasonable."
"No, I am becoming desperate, father, and I
have resolved to speak out."
His father was pleased, in spite of himself, to
recognise his own decision of attitude and frank-
ness of speech in his son.
"Of course it is natural that you should regret
it, my son," he said. "I have never understood
your fancy, and have opposed it. But so far as
sentiments go, you are free."
"You are right. I have just come from declar-
ing to my cousin that I diall love her always,
but that I cannot marry her."
"Parbfeti/ It was not she who refused you,
then? It would, in fact, have been great luck
"I realised that I was unworthy of her."
"What is that you are saying?"
"Yes, unworthy of her. I have been examin-
ing myself for the past week and that is the con-
clusion I have reached to-night. Unworthy,
because she has made up her mind to marry only
a believer, and I am no longer one."
"What do you expect me to do about it?"
"You can do nothing now, but it is you who
"What nonsense! I can make allowance for
your unhappiness ."
THE BARRIER 161
"You are too kind."
" — But I cannot permit you to utter offensive
"To you who are responsible for my evil
"F61icien!" and M. Limerel struck the table
with his clenched fist, and sprang up, pushing back
his chair. "I order you to leave the room!"
"Not yet! Not till I have shown you the in-
jury you have done me. I have come for that.
I have come to avenge it ! Do you understand? "
"What ails you both, Victor, F61icien? What
is the meaning of this scene, these angry voices? "
cried Mme. Limerel, entering hastily from her own
room, and catching her son by the arm. "How
cold you are ! How you are trembling ! The poor
boy is ill."
"No," said the father stepping forward. "He
is insolent, and I have requested him to leave the
"My Fflicien! I do not understand."
"I should have preferred not to have you here,
mother," he said. "To you I would speak more
"He accuses us of having brought him up
badly," said his father. "Of being the cause of
"Oh! what can he mean?" she cried.
"He announced to me, my dear," M. Limerel
proceeded, "that he considers himself unworthy
of our pious niece Marie, that he feels he is not
a good enough Christian to marry her; and the
cause of his not being so, he lays at your door
and mine, Elsa."
162 THE BARRIER
She dropped her son^s hand and fell back, turn-
ing to her husband^ whose anger always cowed
her, as she faltered:
"He is unhappy, and unjust in consequence;
that is but natural. Let him explain himself.
Since we have never done him any wrong, God
knows! it is better that the child should not keep
to himself the reproaches he thinks he has the
right to bring against us. Come, F61icien, we
are willing to listen to you, your father and I, but
on condition that you speak with proper respect.
How can you accuse us of not bringing you up
like a CShristian? Remember the education ^we
have given you."
"Yes, F61icien," pursued M. Limerel, "your
mother is right. It would have been preferable,
on some accounts, considering my own interests,
to send you to a government school. I should
have secured, in that way, certain advantages
and a certain influence."
"The rosette in short," broke in F61icien.
"Why not call it by its name?"
"Let me answer for you, Victor. Yes, the
rosette. What can you find to blame, my son,
in your father's laudable ambitions? The rosette
is something, after all, and he is entitled to wear
it. He might have done like many other people
of stricter principles than we profess — ^he might
have sent you to a lycfe. But he gave up the
idea at my request. We chose for you an insti-
tution conducted by ecclesiastics. Is that what
you reproach us for?"
"No," he replied. "I had early Christian
training, I recognise it. I received more religious
THE BARRIER 163
instruction and saw more examples of faith among
my masters than most of the men of my genera-
tion. That should have sufficed, and often has
done, to build up a sound faith, but on one condi-
tion. It is that the family life should be in har-
mony with these instructions."
"WeU— what of ours?"
"I have seen at home too many examples which
did not agree with the lessons taught at school,
and I have learned to doubt."
"You have seen excellent people, F61icien."
"I have seen that you all placed many things
"What, for instance? I beg you to tell me."
"The enumeration would be long, if I chose.
It includes the whole of life, or what is called by
that name: the whirl of amusement, luxury,
honours, the future — ^yours and perhaps mine
also. I have seen that you failed to defend the
principles I had once been taught to venerate, the
men who had been held up to me as examples;
and that you allowed matters to be freely dis-
cussed, here in your house "
"Oh I a little freedom of conversation! A great
affair!" exclaimed M. Limerel.
"Let him finish, Victor."
"I saw, even, that you approved this language
which at first horrified me. The influences of your
salon were not always a training in virtue. Who
was ever concerned to practise these teachings?"
"That is too much! Did not your mother
preside over your first conmiunion, and with what
164 THE BARRIER
"But afterwards, in the years that followed,
who sustained me in my youthful aspirations?
Who ever tried to divine my doubts and to
answer them? Who ever interested themselves
in my reading? I read everything, without guid-
*'In shoH, I have never understood from the
life here at home that religion was the law by
which we should be guided. That is what I re-
proach you with. If you are, after all, a believer
at heart, father "
M. Limerel, stunned by the violence of his son's
words, had protested but feebly, but now, at
last, hearing his faith doubted, he exclaimed
"Of course I am a believer!"
"Then you should have been one fundamentally,
and have made of my childish faith the law, the
light, the strength of my life. I have none of all
these — ^neither law nor strength nor joy. If you
are a believer and if what you believe exists,
from what a heaven you banished me ! "
"You are talking wildly, F61icien. You are
not such as you describe. Reflect upon the
harsh accusations you are bringing against me
and your mother."
He no longer spoke with irritation. He was
groping uncertainly and blindly in this unsus-
pected world which his son had opened before
"I had noticed,^' he said, "that you had given
up all religious observances."
THE BARRIER 165
"And you did not sufifer on that account?"
''I did not tell you so. I attributed the change
to errors of conduct; I felt that I had no right to
be exacting in matters of piety, that I ought not
to restrain your liberty."
"That is what you call never coming to my
aid, never suspecting, never inquiring, never see-
ing that if I had a soul it was once yours and
was being destroyed "
"If we had understood," broke in his mother,
"we would have tried."
"Your mother sajrs truly, that if we had
They both approached to take his hand, but he
retreated towards the door.
"No, you would have changed nothing in your
lives," he said, "for you had not the will; you
could have changed nothing in mine, for it was
already too late. Now it is all over with my faith ;
it is all over with the love that was in my heart;
and with you also, my father, my mother, it is all
over between us I"
"Do you mean to leave us, F61icien?"
Mme. Limerel sprang forward with arms ex-
tended. "No, it is not true!" she cried. "He
does not know what he is saying, this child; he
was pale a moment ago, now his face is scarlet;
he is beside himself."
"I shall not leave at once, but as soon as I
can. My presence will cause you more regret
than happiness. I shall be a constant reminder of
the wrong that has been done me here. Adieu ! "
"Gol" said his father. "It is better so. I do
166 THE BARRIER
not know how I have endured this so long. Now
go! Go at oncel"
Fflicien left the room with a deliberate step,
while his father and mother stood listening as he
passed down the corridor; then his mother called
^'Come back, my child, come back!"
"No, let him go!" said his father. ''Leave
him alone! I forbid you to call him back!"
They both listened, holding their breath un-
til his footsteps died away, then M. Limerel
"I forbid you to follow him and to contrive
theatrical scenes which I, his father, am to accept
as sufficient expiation for all the insults I have
endured. It is I who will dictate terms of forgive-
ness. I do not propose to let your weak indul-
gence intervene. I have been seriously, odiously
insulted! Why do you not speak? Why do you
stare at me without a word?"
She was no longer, as was her custom, bending
before him in fear and admiration. The violence
of her distress had roused another woman within
her, no longer submissive to his will, but stirred
by thoughts of her own and a sort of exalted
"Afon amij^ she said, "he has judged us!"
"How dare you say such a thing? Judged
"And he is right, perhaps."
"What! F61icien right in his attitude towards
us? You have a singular fashion, which I am
familiar with, of defending your husband. You
THE BARRIER 167
comprehend nothing, then? If I failed to stand
up more vigorously against him "
''It was because you felt as I did, that he was
partly in the right."
''Not at all! I allowed him to pour forth his
anger, because it will give me an advantage over
him later. When he talks of pretended wrongs
towards him I shall be able to reproach him with
his positive wrongs towards me. Yes, I hold him,
if you do not throw yoursdf between us with your
usual heedlessness. He will need money. Have
you thought of that?"
"You are mistaken. All the money you may
give or refuse him will not alter his judgment of
us. He does not respect us, he, our own son! He
has told us so, and we have endured it!"
She followed her husband, who, with a shrug of
the shoulders, had seated himself once more with
his letters and papers before him. She remained
standing beside him, and laid her hand on his
"I assure you, Victor, that we are greatly to
blame in this," she said.
"Yes, I saw it all while F61icien was speaking
— ^I said to myself that ours had been a religion
of mere outward show."
"Different from that of those bigotd at the
Madeleine, happily. Yes, I admit it. What
With increasing energy Elsa limerel pursued:
"We are not the Christians we profess to be.
When our whims are gratified, our ambitions
[ 168 THE BARRIER
fulfilled, our fortunes safe, what remains of the
religion we have sacrificed to these ends? What
truth is there indeed which has not been attacked
beneath our roof, and which we* have ventured
to- defend? It is a fine religion, ours, my poor
husband; it is the religion of respectability."
*'It is the same as other people's. I have
worked, that has been my affair, and for you
who are reproaching me with it to-day!"
"A show relirion," she went on. "A Sunday
religion which we hold cheap on week-days.''
^'How strait-laced you are turning all at once,
"Oh, no jesting, I beg, Victor. I tell you,
seriously, I believe that Wfe have lost our son.
When I saw F61icien leaving us just now, my
heart cried out, 'we are punished!* As we grow
old we learn to see above the home the light from
heaven, or else darkness, I see us both con-
"Enough, my dear; your whole catechism
seems coming back to you. I recommend you
to lower your voice, for I hear one of the maids
coming. Wipe your eyes, quickly!"
Some one was, in fact, approaching; the door
opened and Marie Limerel appeared on the
threshold. She had assured herself that F£licien
was not at home, and with her simple courage she
desired an understanding with his father and
mother, feeling that anything was better than a
silent quarrel. She paused before entering. "I
came to tell you," she said, "how urJiappy
THE BARRIER 169
M. Limerel, who had risen, pointed to his wife,
''I can readily believe it. You can see, my poor
Marie, what misery you have caused."
"Come,'' said Mme. Limerel, taking the young
girl by the hand, and drawing her nearer. Then
pointing in her turn to the man who, for the first
time in his life, sought only to escape from her,
she cried: "Look at him well, for I want to tell
you to his face that you have done right, Marie.
You wish to marry only a sincere Christian, and
you are right. In such a marriage there is truth,
happiness, and a deep mutual understanding.
Do not weaken! Do not marry a half-believer.
You are weeping now, but it is only then that
you would know what real suffering is."
"You see, Marie," exclaimed M. Limerel, "that
she is quite out of her head," and so speaking
he left the room with a shrug, though his face
I had flushed scarlet.
I As the two women passed on into Mme. Lime-
rel's room, Marie spoke again:
"He was admirable in his loyalty. He would
not buy me at the cost of a falsehood. You
must tell him that I shall esteem him always for
having been victorious over himself."
His mother murmured: "While they are still
young, they have moments of nobility and cour-
age. Later they show themselves as they really
"We shall see each other later," faltered Marie
in return, "but a long time hence. You will ex-
plain to him that I should fear not \^\ng brave
170 THE BARRIER
enough now. It tortured me to make him suffer.
Oh, that I should be the one to cause so much
Mme. Limerel laid her hand cares^gly on
Marie's heated brow.
^^You are deeply grieved, my poor Marie," she
"But, believe me, the greatest grief comes later;
that grief which is softened by no approving con-
science, no memories of courage." Then she
added: "You love him. You have loved him."
The girl did not answer but the look in her
eyes spoke for her.
"You love him, and I, his mother, feel that I
have no right to plead for him, to say: 'Go on
loving him.' No, I cannot say it, and this silence
is my condenmation. I am guilty."
They exchanged but a few words more, their
anxiety lest F61icien should return caused them
both to pause and listen, and at last with a more
affectionate embrace than ever before, Marie said :
"Dear aunt, I have never truly known you."
"My poor child, so many women are not their
true selves until it is late — ^too late!"
"How fond I am growing of this Roman life,
Marie," Mme. Limerel was saying.
"You mean of life in Rome, mamma, as we
are living in a hotel and you really cannot call
that Roman life."
"That is nothing. I mean our delightful days
here, our pilgrimages to the churches, our rambles
through the city, now that we are no longer mere
tourists, collecting postcards and new to every-
thing. Do you not feel as I do ? It seems to me
that I have the very look of Rome stamped on
my heart now; not the superficial look which
one discovers at once, but the inner expression
that completes the image. Is it so with you? Ah,
cherie, what priceless hours!"
"Do you think I do not prize them, too?" re-
"They renew my soul."
"You are far yoimger than I, mamma."
"I am freer, perhaps, from hopes and expec-
tations. I surrender m3rself more fully and de-
mand less. That is sometimes the better way."
They were seated in the JPincian gardens, which
face the setting sun and crown the city so nobly.
Many times since their arrival in Rome, they had
spent the late afternoon hours there, reading to
172 THE BARRIER
each other by turns in an undertone. The soft
air of the terrace, the sheltering trees which
frame the distant landscape, the glorious sunset
hour which seems so essential a part of Rome,
all combined for their enchantment. They had
even selected a special garden-bench, where they
usually sat, not in that part of the gardens ad-
joining the Villa Medici, but at the farther end,
beneath a group of ancient ilexes which arch
above the Piazza del Popolo.
The girl, who had ceased reading some mo-
ments before, but still held the book propped on
her knee ready to begin again, now let it fall and
laid her hand across the open pages. At the
same time she drew herself up and shook her
head several times as if about to protest, but
merely sighed without uttering a word.
Mme. limerel softly patted the clasped hand
which unfolded in response to her caress.
''Marie,'* she said, ''I wish I could see your
former courage and high spirits returning. You
have your bright days — ^very bright, as yester-
day at Albano — ^but there come sad ones, too.
When you are sad you are less pretty."
' 'Pretty 1 That is my last thought. And for
"For me, dear, who need your joy to prove to
me that I have brought you up and loved you as I
ought, and made you strong against yourself."
"Oh, you need have no fear! I have not
changed. But I have been so strong against
myself and others, too, that I am sometimes
weary. There are moments when it seems to me
THE BARRIER 173
that I could never do again what I have done^ it
has cost me so dear. And yet I do not regret.
On the contrary, I see more and more clearly
that it was right ^'
"So much the better."
" — ^That I have escaped, thanks to a sort of
ready response to duty, which you have taught
me or transmitted to me, from a life which would
have been very. unhappy or very bad, possibly
both. No, my mind does not hesitate. But the
sorrow I have caused 1 Who will cure that?"
"Time, my chUd."
"And in my heart, who will cure it? Love in
us women is made up almost wholly of the desire
to give happiness — and I have given only suffer-
ing. Do you understand? I have made another
"Oh, it is a suffering that does not last, except
in books, and in a few very pure hearts. But
they are so rare! What is Fllicien doing now?
Do you know?"
"He has written to you?"
"Yes; two letters which reached me in Buiv
"And I knew nothing of it!"
"I even answered one of them. It was wrong
of me not to show them to you. Pray forgive me,
dearest. I see that I have given you pain."
"And this time it is pain which you may regret
causing, for I have not deserved it."
"It is true. I did wrong. You shall see them,
I promise you."
174 THE BARRIER
"What did he say?"
"That I had cast him back forever upon his
"You have merely refused to follow him."
"He said other sad things. The second time
I did not answer. All is over now."
Marie bent closer to her mother. "You see he
loved me. I had never been loved before — ^the
power that word has over us dies slowly. Do you
not think so?"
"You are a true woman, Marie," said her mother,
embracing her. Then they both ceased speaking,
and in the silence their thoughts followed the
same path. They had spoken in hushed tones,
and their movements had changed so slightly the
grouping of light and shade cast by their figures,
that three women seated on another bench beneath
the same roof of ilex boughs — ^a young mother, a
blooming nurse from the Campagna, in her lace
cap and bright ribbons, and a pale, indifferent
school-girl — ^had not observed the presence of these
motionless and dreamy strangers.
The few passers-by in this remote nook of the
garden barely glanced at them, and already the
stream of promenaders was turning back towards
Some were strolling in the splendour of the
evening, beneath the overarching foliage which
autumn does not tinge, others along the wall
which encircles the hill in' the full flood of golden
light. In the throng were women leading their
cWldren by the hand, tired clerks who had
escaped from their desks, soldiers, students, and
THE BARRIER 175
groups of seminarists^ with their blue and scarlet
sashes^ all drawn homeward at the summons of
the Ave Maria, that curfew which calls the people
as a shepherd his flock, and which at that season
rang before six o'clock. The level rays of the sun,
streaming across the city, bathed the tree-trunks
and fell on Marie's brow, while the sweetness of
those last gleams stole into her heart.
*'You have escaped a danger which you see
clearly enough now,'' her mother was saying.
*'In future you must not let unreasoning regrets
dim your sense of the splendid gift of life —
nothing petty or unworthy of you."
"Why do you speak so of my regrets? Why
am I forbidden to cherish them? They can harm
'^They impair your own strength. You are not
their prisoner as you believe. It is you who draw
them about you. You give to the slightest words,
to childish memories, a power they did not have
over your heart in those days. You do this,
Marie, to make your decision not to marry
F61icien seem harder than it really was, harsher
"No, not towards me."
* ' Yes, to yourself first, and also more exceptional,
more heroic. You build up a half fanciful sorrow
and immure yourself within it. Oh, I can read
your heart. I know the poor human heart which
so often deceives itself. There is pride in your
"There is much pity, too, believe me."
"Well, keep your pity, dear, but in God's sight
176 THE BARRIER
only, and drive away the rest — all the echoes of
what might have been. Sacrifice the memory of
your love, since you have given up the love
By way of answer Marie took up the book which
lay in her lap, turned the first pages, and closed
it slowly. She did it mechanically, with no
thought of what her gesture symbolised. Then
in the penetrating tone which reveals the mind
wholly present in the words, she said :
"I will try. I believe you are right in every-
"You must rise higher, Marie. You must rise
to where you can find peace."
"Where is it found, dearest?"
"There, where we are not. Forget yourself,"
and as she spoke Mme. Limerel rose, and pointing
through the branches to the setting sun, added
with a smile :
"Up yonder. Come, let us go and watch the
last gleams of daylight. We have been talking
so seriously that I feel the need of drawing a freer
breath. If the Romans who are taking their
passegiaia here had heard our talk they would
resent such gravity in an hour like this."
Marie had already risen. "But I do not. Our
talk has done me so much good! But we really
have no time to lose. Seel the sun is just sinking
behind the portico of St. Peter's. How the city
seems made to bask in sunlight I It lays in such
stores all day that by evening it becomes trans-
lucent for a moment. Look over there at the
quarter beyond the Tiber!"
THE BARRIER 177
Mme. Limerd leaned over the balustrade while
Marie stood erect beside her, both wrapped about
in the glowing light and flhe soft breeze from the
west; both with their eyes full of the same won-
der and delight, both with minds open and eager,
and one of them giving thanks that the child,
the soul so dear to her, was growing strong
From the heights of the Pincio, the city within
its encircling walls appeared slightly hollowed
at the centre, while to the south it rose in more
billowy curves, crowned with more domes, bel-
fries, and ruin^ everywhere intense in colour and
warm to the eye. The flat, white-washed roofs,
the tiles, the reddish-yellow facades, all that was
built to shelter man, was lighted now by re-
flection only. But these valleys of stone, closely
built and compressed as they were, seemed to
emit innumerable rays of light, for the air above
them quivered like a field of golden sheaves.
Then night stole rapidly over the scene, as
the first violet-blue shadows crept nearer and
''The daylight is dying," said Mme. Limerel.
*'No, the garden still catches the light. See,
mamma! those stone pines are like tufts of gold.'^
''They are fading now; it is all over. Only the
dome of St. Peter's sees the vanished sun."
''And that of Santa Maria Maggiore."
For a few moments longer they stood there in
silence until a breath of chill wind shook the
leaves on the terrace and died away, then a
second breath followed, laden with the dampness
178 THE BARRIER
of the Campagna marshes. The church-bells,
voices of all the ages^ chimed the Ave Maria.
The gardens were already deserted,
'^The sky remains clear," said Mme. Limerel.
"Come, it will be a lovely evening."
They skirted the terrace, and near the Villa
Medici descended by a hollow road winding be-
tween walls and gardens and emerging on the
Piazza di Spagna.
"Here we are at homel" exclaimed Marie, "in
the yellowest comer of Rome, the region of the
pietra rossa. All these houses try, as they grow
old, to look like palaces. A charming coquetry,
is it not?"
"Where shall we hear mass to-morrow?"
"Wherever you choose."
"Let it be at some church we have not yet
visited. What do you say to our neighbour, the
Trinitit de' Monti, which is open only on Sunday
mornings ? "
As she spoke they both turned instinctively to
look up the great stairway which they would
ascend in the morning. Then they skirted the
little parterre, with its five tall paJms, and entered
the Hotel de Londres where they were stajring.
It was the sixteenth of October, and they had
been a fortnight in Rome, finding there the di-
version they both needed, and enjoying a "soU-
tude k deux" which showed them how dear they
were to each other, and gave fresh power to the
words they exchanged, the emotions they shared,
and even their very silences. Mme. Limerel was
not mistaken in her belief that the influence of
THE BARRIER 179
the past was gradually losing its hold over
On the day following the last interview be-
tween Marie and F61icien, M. Victor Limerel had
appeared in the Avenue d'Antin, very correct and
pompous, expressing no regrets, but imposing
his will, as usual.
"Madeleine," he said, ''I have a§ked to see you
alone, because I do not wish to have a scene, and
it would be painful to me to utter any reproaches.
I foresaw beforehand what has taken place. I
was perfectly aware of all the reasons which
made a marriage between my son and your
daughter impossible. Your fault, or Marie's, or
that of you both, was in not understanding this
earlier. Your weakness has produced great un-
happiness, as you are aware. I have no confi-
dences to make you; but my son has shown
himself greatly wanting in his duty to us. He
talks of taking an apartment outside my house;
we have come to that. Such is the work of— oh!
do not defend yourself. You know that with
me it is useless. I have told you what has already
taken place; it only remains for me to tell you
what is to be in future. One thing which will
never be permitted is this utterly irrational
marriage. You agree with me as to that? So
much the better. I desire to reaflSrm to you
F61icien's decision, which my wife approves as I do.
Yes, my wife! She may have differed from me at
first, but I have brought her to my point of view.
And in consequence, if it is agreeable to you, my
dear sister-in-law, we will meet less frequently
180 THE BARRIER
in future. But there is no occasion that the
world should be made acquainted with our
family differences. I shall be silent on the sub-
ject, so will you. We shall exchange greetings,
of course, when we meet in our friends' houses,
but anjrthing more we will postpone, shall we
not, to some future day ? "
Mme. Limerel had simply replied: "I am less
harsh than you. Our children are, henceforth,
irrevocably parted. It is a necessity, a fortunate
one, if you like. But I regret above all that the
suffering should be theirs while the fault was
yours. I regret what might have been. Adieu.''
Shortly after this, at the beginning of July, she
had left Paris with her daughter. Two months
with relations in Burgundy had not restored
Marie's health and spirits, as her mother had
hoped. Marie's dear eyes — ^those "tea-coloured"
eyes — ^had not lost their charming habit of looking
straight into yours as she listened, of being limpid
and steadfast, and of softening as she spoke, but
dark shadows had gathered aroimd them. The
lips, with their delicate curves, still smiled, but
slight though the effort was, it was perceptible,
and the wish to give pleasure could not replace
the spontaneous gaiety of youth. While peace
returned to her, her strength seemed to diminish,
and her mother was growing anxious. She felt
that she had been too hasty in accepting the in-
vitation of the cousins in Burgundy. Ch&teau
life, with its constant round of visits, sports and
excursions, the monotonous excitement of the
holidays, the exuberance of a flock of children.
THE BARRIER 181
the eager attentions of an aunt and cousins^ all
drawn to Marie by the hint of a love-secret, were
ill adapted to heal a proud and reserved nature.
The distractions of society avail little against a
cherished sorrow; they rather tend to drive the
mind back upon itself, to stimulate its regrets by
their futiUty, making its own pain seem nobler
and these diversions emptier than they really
The mother understood this at last, and carried
her daughters away to a quiet valley in the canton
of Fribourg, and when the time came for the
younger girl to return to England, continued to
travel with Marie alone. Solitude gradually did
its work of healing, bringing back the whole past
to the girl's conscience. In the inner silence the
higher reasons which had led to her decision and
had thronged to her aid only to utter the word
*' Refuse 1" now spoke more fully, and those spirit-
ual powers which bring a hard-won peace said to
her sad heart:
^*We have not deceived you. We were sta-
tioned about you to protect your weakness. See
how little you can rely on your own strength, since,
after obeying us, you can still doubt. Men judge
with a shallow judgment, and their shallowness is
cruel. They call that an ill-assorted marriage
where they see differences of education, of fortune
or family, while they overlook the infinite dispari-
ties, the misalliances of soul. Child, no human ten-
derness is worth the price you would have paid for
it. We are the primal compassion; the suffer-
ing we impose lasts but for a time."
182 THE BARRIER
Marie listened and the eternal summits began
to grow clear.
On Sunday morning, a little before nine o'clock,
as Mme. Limerel issued from the hotel with her
daughter, they exclaimed with one voice :
"Oh, the beautiful morning!" and basking in
the joy of the sunlight, they traversed the short
distance between their door and the church. The
"yellowest comer of Rome" was more sparkling
than usual, the spray from the fountain on the
piazza caught a rainbow as it fell, and the famous
staircase opposite looked as though the white
cascade of stones had been built to hold the sun-
shine. There was no shadow on the travertine,
which gleamed everywhere like polished marble,
and as Marie laid her hand on the balustrade, she
found it warm to the touch.
People were flocking up and down this radiant
cleft in the hill, and at its base the flower-sell-
ers were displaying the flowers of the season
— B, few roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, and
sprays of Japanese anemone. Above, the Trinit Jt
de' Monti raised its lofty fa5ade, with the twin
towers stained yellow long ago that their out-
line might be less harsh against the blue of the
The church was nearly full; one side of the
high grating which divides it being reserved for
the pupils of the Sacr6 Cceur. Seated close to-
gether, with their white veils, d la merge, falling
over their shoulders, they formed a patch of daz-
zling whiteness, framed by the black robes of the
THE BARRIER 183
nuns. At the first sight Marie recognised France,
and became absorbed in recollections. She had
^ often seen these veils worn by her friends in
the great convents of Paris, and a similar one was
now covering the far from nun-like head of her
little sister in England.
The lower half of the nave was filled by parents
of the pupUs and residents of the quarter, with a
sprinkling of peasants such as are always to be
seen praying in the Roman churches, motionless
and with upturned eyes.
Marie and her mother rapidly traversed this
throng and found a place near the grating. The
officiating priest stood before the altar, which
was tastefully and lovingly adorned with fresh
flowers and foliage.
No man could fail to be reminded by this sight
of the pure hands which had decorated the altar,
and would have called up a vision of spotless
youth, a little insipid and resigned, perhaps,
thus proving his utter ignorance of convent life.
Marie, who knew it better and was formed to un-
derstand this city of the soul, thought on the con-
trary of the magnificent energy of which the lea^t
of these women had given proof; how all had
struggled, all had suffered, and how before gather-
ing flowers and handling the linen upon the altar
they had seen the imperious light of duty and had
followed where it led. Then she turned to the
service for the XXth Sunday after Trinity, and
lingered over these words of the liturgy: ^'The
eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord, and Thou givest
them their meat in due season."
184 THE BARRIER
How many words like these are scattered
through the Christian year, in order that poor
human hopes may not fail — ^those hopes so nec-
essary to all, so trembling, unstable, and soon put
to flight 1 What a deep knowledge of human na-
ture had placed there for the ages the answer
which even happiness needs, since it craves con-
tinuance: "Thou givest them their meat," but
in due season only, when they have renounced the
thought of obtaining it from the earth alone and
from those who dwell upon it.
At the moment of the conmiunion Marie and her
mother made their way to the choir, where they
knelt at the altar railing. At Marie's left a man
was kneeling. She did not see him until she rose
to regain her place. Then, low as her eyes were
bent, a vague, rapid image crossed them, and
vague though it was, a powerful emotion seized
her. He was there in Rome, he had embraced the
same faith as hers, he had received the same
communion, he was walking behind her now, in
her shadow. She resisted, from an instinct of
reverence, the thoughts which assailed her as
she returned to her place beside the grating and
knelt again, troubled and humiliated by the
throng of strange fancies which disturbed her
Many of the worshippers had now left the
church, some were stopping to exchange greetings
upon the threshold and the sound of their voices
entered with the breeze blowing up the nave.
The little piazza outside was only astir on this one
day in the week.
THE BARRIER 185
Marie rose from her knees before her mother
and turned to go; she was in haste to assure her-
self that she had not been mistaken. She looked
about her for a glimpse of the figure she had
half recognised, but saw only an Italian convers-
ing with two of the sisters, a few women still
seated, and some French tourists attempting to
see a fresco.
Her disappointment was keen as she passed out
in the midst of these Romans and foreigners, all
rejoicing in the sunshine. No one was there, no
one for her at least, since she did not find him for
whom she was looking. She had forgotten to
look beside her as she passed through the door-
way. At the moment she descended the first step
some one held out his hand, too deeply moved to
speak. She raised her eyes and saw his face,
transfigured by a joy beyond all earthly joys.
She was tempted to say: *'0h, Reginald! I re-
joice with you," but she kept silence, and they
descended the flight of steps without a word, but
with their heads raised high, their eyes fixed
above the crowd, and their hearts higher still.
Those who looked at them might have thought
them lovers, but something surpassing ordinary
tenderness enveloped them both, and their souls
raised the same hyum of thankfulness.
Marie was the first to welcome this new son of
the church, and he who had thought to go away
rejoicing but alone, had found a friendly hand, a
fraternal soul, and a memory full of his own past
struggles. In the Rome now slumbering beneath
the grasses, yonder along the Via Sacra in those
186 THE BARRIER
earlier times when the noblest of the pagan
world had been attracted by the purity of the
Christian rites^ such a pair may have aroused the
wonder and emotion of the faithful who saw
them emerging from the shadow of the churches
into open day: a virgin initiated from childhood
in sacred things, and beside her a young patrician
wearing upon his face the glory and happiness
of the new life.
At the foot of the steps Mme. Limerel rejoined
Marie, having only then caught sight of Reginald.
Did she look upon him with any other feeling than
the surprise Singled with s^pathy whilh she
was too kindly not to feel at that moment? Did
she wish to prolong for an instant Marie's very
innocent dream? Whatever the reason, she paused
a little before saying:
Reginald and Marie turned towards her. Their
faces wore the same expression, the same radi-
ance, as of those who had talked long together and
reached a perfect sympathy, and yet they had not
spoken. Reginald greeted Mme. Limerel:
''I am like you, now," he said. ''Wholly like
She questioned him rapidly.
"Where are you from? How long have you
been here ? Had you already seen us? Explain
it all to me."
But as the crowd was dense about them where
they stood, they descended to the lower terrace
and turned into a sort of open lo^a on one side.
The sun poured down upon this little stage of
THE BARRIER 187
stone on which their moving figures cast light shad-
ows. *^ We are exceedingly happy to see you, my
mother and I/' said Marie at last. '^I cannot tell
you how moved I was when I recognised you
"It is two weeks since I was received into the
church," he said. "There was no one there that
day — ^no one, I mean, who had ever known me
He spoke with a frank simplicity character-
istic of him, while at the same time he gazed
steadfastly at these two unexpected witnesses.
His eyes seemed to say: "You are my family
now. At the hour when so many others turn
from me, it is a joy to meet you."
"What a strange meeting!" resumed Marie.
"When I saw you last you were far from this in
"Not so far as you imagined. Paris had de-
cided me to come to Rome. I had seen marvels
there. I wished to see their source. The months
have passed very rapidly."
"You stayed in Rome through the height of
"Yes. I shall have no winter of my own."
"That is true."
"I regret nothing of these months, not even
the heat," and a smile lighted up his face as he
added: "I have made the longest journey a man
can make. I have come to the truth."
"The hardest journey, perhaps," said Mme.
^ "No, it has not been hard. It is now that the
188 THE BARRIER
ordeal will be a crael one^ for others as well as
Reginald turned his face towards the piazza as
he spoke, while his expression, and even the tones
of his voice, completely changed. Mme. Limerel
and Marie had before them once more the man of
the world, the oflScer in the Indian service.
''You are staying in this quarter?" he asked.
''Yes, just below there, at the nearest hotel.
We look up at this staircase whenever we go in
"You wished to be near the house of Keats?
Was that the reason?"
"The house of Keats?"
"Yes, look! opposite us, the loggia with a
trellis. He came here to die, in that little comer
palace. I am very fond of the poet who said so
many moving things in so brief a time. Do you
remember — " And he quoted the familiar line :
*' Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are
"Was it really for his sake that you chose this
quarter of Rome?'^'
"Oh, no! do not fancy it. We came here partly
by chance, and partly because it is the French
quarter. Here are the Villa Medici and TrinitJt
de' Monti, both French institutions, and even this
stairway was built by Cardinal de Polignac, the
ambassador of Louis XV. Do you see?" And
Marie pointed out the tablet bearing an inscrip-
tion to that effect.
THE BARRIER 189
The young people both smiled at these re-
minders of their several nationalities^ but Regi-
nald instantly turned grave again as a sudden
recollection crossed his mind.
"I must take leave of you/' he said to Mme.
Limerel. "I have an important matter to attend
to this very morning. Will you allow me to call
upon you as soon as I am free? "
''Gladly, Monsieur. We shall not go out before
''I shall be at liberty before that. It takes so
little time to give pain."
"You are right," said Marie. "One word
only and sorrow comes."
He bowed and remounted the steps, while
Mme. Limerel and her daughter continued to
descend. At the foot they bought some flowers
and then went to take tea at one of the caf^ in
the Via Condotti.
"What a fine manly naturel" said Marie. "To
me he seems a sort of foreign brother, if one can
say so.. To have been a witness of his doubts,
the honest doubts of one who wishes to believe,
who loves what he does not yet possess, and then
to be present at this act of perfect faith! That
is a thing which touches me, perhaps, more than
"He has needed great courage."
"Yes, greater, certainly, than we can imag-
"Since that evening at Redhall we have heard
nothing of the Breynolds, or scarcely anything."
"Only what Dorothy has written."
190 THE BARRIER
"His parents will probably never forgive him.
He must have been thinking of them just now.
He will tell you, perhaps."
''No, mamma, because he is English and a
man, and I am merely a woman. And be-
She hesitated and smiled to soften what might
be wounding in her words:
''And besides, you will be present, my dear
mamma. I foresee a classic reception, a blending
of comradeship and reserve, after which we shall
separate as we did in Paris."
Mme. Limerel's suite at the Hotel de Londres
consisted of a salon and two bedrooms on the first
floor, looking out on the piazza. It was in this
salon, furnished with heavy gilt chairs and sofas
covered with red satin, that they received Regi-
nald. He was grave and absent-minded, and re-
plied with a visible effort to Mme. Limerers
friendly questionings. She had expected him to
talk readUy of Rome, and was surprised at the
polite indifference he showed to the monuments,
pictures, ruins, and scenery which she enumerated
with the ardour of her French nature, and the
enthusiasm of a traveller who has but lately dis-
covered Italy. The names which enchanted her
and called up vivid pictures to her mind he
scarcely noticed — ^the view of Rome from the
Janiculum, St. Paul's Without the Walls, the little
church of San Onofrio, the gardens, the Cam-
pagna, the wagoners from the Castelli Romani
sheltered beneath their gay awnings. Had this
THE BARRIER 191
Englishman grasped nothing of the Rome where
he had been living for three months?
^'How did you happen, Monsieur, to come to the
Trinity de' Monti this morning? You are lodging,
you say, in the Aventine quarter near the ruins? "
"It was simply that I had not yet seen it."
''Oh, I am far from having seen everything! I
am not a traveller, interested above all in the
city itself. I must come again for that, in five
years or so, perhaps. I shall hope to find some of
my new friends here then."
He named one of his compatriots, a Benedictine
who had instructed, guided, and sustained him
through his period of study and doubt.
"He is a sort of Thomas Winne in a monk's
frock," he said, looking at Marie. "Not in ap-
pearance, but in his tenacity, his vigorous reason-
ing powers, and his friendship for me."
But on this subject neither Mme. Limerel nor
Marie wished to question him, and he spoke but
briefly. He lingered, however, and Marie, who
divined this soul at once so confiding and so re-
served, Marie the bom consoler, with her intuitive
sense of the neighbourhood of trouble, suddenly
"I am sure that you would like to take a walk
"Yes, that is the very thing."
"And you did not dare to ask? Why? You
have some chosen nook in Rome that you would
like to show us, and see whether we share your
admiration? Have I guessed right?"
^ed couDsd oj^ ajji. j tier ^^J^'
^°^^* ^r ^tfaV^J^ ready ^^x ^^e
saying: >««»*' g ^alo»S
xmnutes. ^ ^t 1aet » ^^^t
dream, tlaen ^JJ^'Jt day be iot t.
^^ PS weStotbetea^'^ ^^^^
nesswbi^^^ Marie. ^^ impulsive ajj^ tbe
his eyes ^ ^^erel, ^^? J^s M ^^ T V t^^,
moved, ^PP^e Hvidden '^^iho^^f'^^^^i tte
resemble **^j gorrowtM^ t^^^ Vbicb at ^^
resell*'-'*. r gorrt^*^**
ite free, «f /.^g her
^"^ « timerei, * „
^^^r t^«^^*; £ u8 take
THE BARRIER 193
this walk with Monsieur Breynolds, since you
see that he cares about it/'
^'So be it. We will go wherever you say.
Monsieur. To-morrow at three, if you like."
Reginald did not answer at once, but waited
till his face had obeyed the command of his
will and grown less stem and sad, then he said
with an attempt at cheerfulness which still ex-
''To-day I have something else to ask. You
will laugh at me, Madame."
"Oh, no, surely notl"
''We are sometimes rather superstitious in
England, and perhaps I am so still. You must
pardon some weaknesses in a new convert."
As he spoke he drew a letter from his pocket.
"I have been writing this letter, which has cost
me more than any I have ever written. No, I
cannot remember ever tracing words with such
pain. There are some cruel ones, you know. I
have asked a great favour, one which will be hard
to grant." And he held the letter out to Marie.
''I should like the purest of hands to mail it. I
feel as if the request I am making would thus have
more chance of not being refused by one who is
very hard, very stem. Will you do this for
"Go together," said Mme. Limerel. "You are
both young and both sad, and it will be a way of
helping one another. You know the letter-box,
Marie, across the piazza. Go!"
Marie took the letter and ran to put on her hat.
She then led the way down the stairs without a
194 THE BARRIER
word, but distress and pity were in both their
hearts, and they felt life vibrating between them.
As they crossed the piazza Reginald said:
"Read the address/'
Marie raised the letter in the sunlight and read :
"Sir George Breynolds, Bart.,
''Eden Hotel, Pallanza."
"Your father is at Pallanza?"
"Yes, with Robert Hargreave. I count very
much on Hargreave, for he knows all. No, do not
drop the letter in yet. Listen 1 you have the right
to know what it contains, for it is the direct con-
sequence, the end of a painful conflict in which
you bore a part.*'
"Do you regret it?"
"No, I thank you for it all. Sorrow has come
from it, but a happiness too, surpassing all — ^the
happiness of this morning, which will endure and
in the end will stifle the pain."
He spoke more freely now; his youth confiding
again in her who had been involved once before
in this unfinished drama, the counsellor of cour-
age, the loyal spirit who had kept silence and
asked for no return.
"Come this way into the shade," he said, and he
led Marie a few steps down the Via San Sebastiano,
which was sheltered from the sun. She wore again
the deeply thoughtful look of one who is appealed
to for help, and is conscious of being able to ^ve
it, and yet fears to exercise a power which reaches
out into the unknown.
"I can repeat it by heart," he said. ''listen:
THE BARRIER 195
'^^My dbak Father: Every word you said to
me on the day when, at your command, I left
Redhall is stamped on my memory. You spoke
in anger caused by me, but .they were words you
believed to be true and for my good. I would not
reproach you for one of them. You were within
your rights as a father, and such as I niever
doubted I should find you. I realise now that
you knew me better than I knew myself. It ap-
peared to you that my conduct in several in-
stances was dictated by a beginning of allegiance
to the Catholic faith, not by mere detachment
from my earlier beliefs. I suffered for that faith
even before being fully conscious that it was mine.
This very suflfering must prove to you, my dear
father, that my adherence to the greatest church
has not been given without deep study, reflection,
and prayer. I am sure you will not believe for
a moment that I have been able to incur your
disapproval and cause you deep regret, without
being forced to do so by the supreme rule which
should guide a man in all things, and which you
have yourself taught me to follow — devotion to the
truth. Father, the eucharist which I saw raised
upon the hills of England has become mine. For
a week I have participated in the sacraments of the
Roman Church. It was a Benedictine of our own
nation who gave me spiritual instruction. A week
ago when I was received into the church, several
English brothers were beside me. I would have
given my life to have all those who are dear to me
there also. I am about to return to Assam, my
dear father; it is a long journey, as you know. I
196 THE BARRIER
wish from my heart not to undertake this journey
without seeing you again. I entreat you to re-
ceive me. You need not approve what I have
done because you receive me, but it will make my
sorrow a little less heavy — ^yours too, perhaps — ^if
we can see each other once more. I shall await
your answer Wednesday, at Pallanza.
"'And now I fulfil the promise I gave you.
Since you have decided that Redhall should be
taken from me, you can do as you see fit.
"'Your affectionate son,
"That is my letter. It was a very painful
one to write. I was almost moved to tears, I,
a man, at the thought of leaving without seeing
him again. But if you post the letter there will be
a blessing on it. IJe cannot refuse. There, drop
Marie's fingers tightly clasped the letter which
now seemed to her alive and speaking. In spite
of the dazzling sunshine, she saw the houses
across the piazza through a veil of mist.
"Redhall will not be yours, then?"
She would not allow herself to judge where
Reginald did not, but as she stood there pale,
proud, and trembling a little :
"You are very brave," she said. "I could not
have believed that such a fate hung upon this
letter. What you have told me now, and what
you said to me once before, I shall never for-
THE BARRIER 197
Then she stepped across the sunny space to the
box and dropped the letter slowly, listening to the
muffled sound it made as it fell, while Reginald
gazed after her until she rejoined him.
"To-morrow, then, I shall bid you good-by,"
he said, as they walked away. "This time it
seems to me that we shall not meet again. I
wish you every joy in your engagement."
She turned her head away abruptly, saying:
"But I am not engaged."
"What! I thought you were to marry — "
"No. We are not to be married, I, too, have
had a great sorrow. Au remirP^
They had reached the hotel as she spoke, and
Marie entered quickly, leaving Reginald outside.
He thought he saw her from a distance wave him
a friendly farewell, yet he remained standing
before the door through which she had vanished,
half expecting her to return.
A carriage driving up, full of travellers, obliged
him to retreat, and he walked away towards the
centre of the city, his heart beating rapidly. His
mind was tossed and buffeted by the tempest
within him, by all the thronging troubles he had
already foreseen, and others rising before him.
He tried to make head against the howling pack.
He heard their cries :
"Your father has renounced you, your mother
is in tears, Redhall is lost to you ! Countless affec-
tions are wounded; there is nothing left you but
to flee! All the treasure of love built up for you
by your parents and friends, your old comrade-
ships, the ivy on the walls of home, the pond that
198 THE BARRIER
will spread its blossoms for other eyes^ all sacri-
ficed by you^ all! Madman who have despised
that weialth of love which enriched your youth!"
He kept repeating as he walked along the streets :
"I have done ri^t. I will not count up my
griefs. God has counted them for me. Such
thoughts will weaken me. Away with them!"
Then another voice, a new one, powerful as all
the rest together, said: ''Marie is free and you
never dreamed of it. Marie is free, free, free!"
How little he resembled the busy or idle prome-
naders he passed, or even himself of the day
before, or that very morning! On he went along
the Corso and the Piazza Venezia, through the
narrow streets around the Forum. Nothing
roused his interest, no vision penetrated through
his eyes to his brain. Dead was the city around
him; dead the memories which rise before us all
as we pass along its wajrs. He was cut off even
from the memories of his Roman summer, the
morning throng, the palaces, the fountains, all
the known and unknown which had enveloped
him, by this torrent of new emotions. She alone
occupied his heart. She was all his world. She
created and destroyed in an instant visions far
clearer and more real than those about him: a
whole past of tears, and Marie free, Marie by whom
he might have made himself loved, Marie indif-
ferent whom he must lose with all the rest!
He did not yield before these assaults. A sort
of anger animated him, the excitement of the tried
wrestler who will not be conquered, and who is not
at his first victory. He had walked so rapidly
THE BARRIER 199
that his brow was hot and throbbing as he turned
into the shaded path between deep walls which
climbs the deserted slopes of the Aventine. He
stopped before the door of the Abbey of St.
Anselm, which is occupied by the college of the
Benedictine order. The porter recognised him at
once, and Reginald rejoiced, so in need was he
of sympathy, and recalled, as he did so, the old
gardener at home on the night he was e^ed.
"Is Dom Austin Vivian here?''
"No, he is not."
"Ah, I am sorry to hear that. I wanted so
much to see him. I will come back a little while
before the Ave Maria."
"He is not in Rome," said the friar. "He was
called away several days ago. Here is a letter he
left for you."
The sunset was approaching its most golden
hour, and before leaving, Reginald wished to gaze
for the last time at the noble prospect which those
meditative souls have always spread out before
them. But he found that it no longer spoke
peace to his troubled heart. His last look was
at the door which had so often opened to him,
the door of carved chestnut — ^most imperishable
of woods — ^in a setting of white marble, with an
inscription over it which he read once more: "Pax
setema ab aeterno." Peace, that wealth which
no wealth can buy, which he had once possessed
and was seeking still, but as those who know
that they shall find it again, that it has with-
drawn a little way in order to be better loved, but
not too far to hear the dropping of our tears.
200 THE BARRIER
He went away feeling that he was utterly alone
in life, but that on the morrow there would be
Marie. The footpaths were deserted, the walls on
either side re-echoed his hasty steps. He con-
tinued to ascend to the summit of the hill where
stood an inn surrounded by a small vineyard, where
he had hired a room looking down over Rome.
He entered, but did not approach his window
as was his wont every evening. He seated him-
self before the plain deal table and buried his
face in his hands. Cruel thoughts, tenacious
thoughts, still assailed him, but at moments he
felt a sense of succour as he murmured :
''Come to my help, O God! to the help of one
who is very poor. All the beings upon whom
my heart has leaned have, one by one, withdrawn
from me. I am reduced to my own weakness and
Thy power. It is best so. My father banished
me, my friend was absent when I most needed
counsel, my new friend fails me to-day. They held
but for a moment the place I thought a lasting
one. And she whom I shall see to-morrow! How
will it be between us? Grant to me who am
timid and silent the courage to speak to Marie.
Grant that her answer may be according to Thy
will, Thou Dispenser of the supreme and prom-
He had no sense of the flight of time. When he
rose and looked around at the dim walls of his
room, the stars were shining in at the window, and
far below, in the deep valley, gardens, huts, and ruins
slumbered and the calm, cold, silent night spread
over all, allaying the dust and tumult of the day.
THE BARRIER 201
On the following afternoon, at three o'clock,
when Reginald entered the reading-room of the
Hotel de Londres he found there Mme. Limerel,
Marie, and an old lady dressed in black, to whom
he was presented, — a tall, thin lady, comfortably
ensconced on the sofa, with a light silk scarf over
her shoulders which she was constantly redraping,
and who had the direct, serious, and at the same
time amused expression of those who have trav-
elled a great deal, and who instinctively weigh
and compare whatever they see — ^landscapes,
jewels, accents, men's clothes, and the tones of
*'You remind me. Monsieur Breynolds," she
said, '^of an Englishman I met on the Bosphorus,
who wore precisely the same sort of travelling
costume, with the blouse and knickerbockers of
brown — or is it green? It must be very practi-
cal. Your tailors have never invented anything
He bowed, and it was chiefly with this elder-
ly globe-trotter that he conversed while they
climbed the Spanish steps and wound around the
edge of the terraced gardens. Marie followed in
silence with her mother, knowing that this was but
a temporary diversion. The attention he lent to
the most commonplace questions was too elabo-
rate, he took too much pains to answer fully, while
at the same time turning aside from anything
which approached the personal, even avoiding the
vague expressions in which youth often veils an
insistent trouble in an unconscious appeal for
202 THE BARRIER
Marie, meanwhile, pursued the dream which
had absorbed her the previous evening, and all
that morning. She understood that ^e should
again have this hidden soul opened to her, and that
the hour was approaching. At last Mme. Limerel
"Where are you taking us. Monsieur?'*
They had walked half-way along the terrace,
skirting the Pincian hill. He cast a glance about
him, like one who has come a long distance with-
out being aware of it, and replied:
"I do not know. It is all quite the same to
"You promised, you know, to show us one of
your favourite spots."
He thought for a moment:
"Have you been to the Piazza di Siena?"
"Let us go there, then."
The little party turned to the right and crossed
the garden between beds of withered flowers —
dahlias, roses, pinks, and sage, whose foliage was
already dead, but which still showed bright bits of
colour on the top of their elongated stalks. The
pathway led through a grove of tall cedars draped
with wild vine drooping languidly in the breath
Marie was now talking with Mme. Villier, while
Reginald walked ahead with Mme. Limerel and
described to her the long journey he must make
before reaching Assam. At the end of the garden
they crossed a bridge over a deep ravine and
entered the grounds of the Villa Borghese. The
THE BARRIER 203
horizon widened, and the characteristic Roman
beauty showed itself in the bolder contours of the
landscape, and the soaring lines of the cypresses.
Reginald led the way through an ilex avenue, and
soon pointed out on the right hand an oval glade,
a sort of stadium for races and games, which had
been hollowed out in the midst of a grove of
lofty stone pines, and surrounded by tall hedges
of clipped box, above which a yew tree rose
here and there. The arena was framed by four
tiers of moss-grown stone steps, with strips of
sod between, forming seats for the absent spec-
"There is the Piazza di Siena," he said. "I
have often spent hours here. See what perfect
seclusion. How far we seem to be from the noise
of the streets."
''It is antique, evidently," saidj the lady
''Only a century old, Madame, but the Roman
air soon gives that look of grandeur."
A few figures could be seen strajdng along the
distant avenues, looking minute among the trees.
The twisted boughs of the pines on the embank-
ment were beginning to turn a rosy hue, but the
hollow of the circus was in shadow and the re-
cumbent stones wrapped in their clinging mosses
were pallid only from the intensity of shade about
In order to rest and enjoy this solitude, the
ladies seated themselves on the upper row of
seats near the opening, and Reginald remained
standing on the knoll above them.
204 THE BARRIER
An emotion too strong to be repressed had taken
possession of him; at last he approached Marie
where she sat beside her mother and said:
''Will you come a Uttle way with me? It will
be our last walk together/'
She rose at once, and side by side they walked
away over the carpet of pine needles, into the
shade of the grove.
"You allow it?" asked the friend, and Mme.
''He is an Englishman and he is leaving to-
The last walk! What a throng of memories,
the slightest and the most remote, were awakened
by that cruel word; how they gathered about
these two, separating them at once from the whole
world 1 Reginald had already bent over Marie,
and was speaking to her in low tones. Stirred as
they were by different but dominating emotions,
they moved slowly, while every gesture and in-
flection of their voices was unstudied and spon-
taneous, the words they exchanged were stripped
of every vestige of the human comedy, and had
become the breath of two souls without dis-
For the first time Reginald said: "Mary," and
on hearing her name pronounced Marie was more
troubled than before. She understood now that
she bore no other name in his thoughts.
"Mary, I thank you for having come. You
have already played a great part in my life."
"I did not seek it."
"No, but it was a beneficent, a blessed part."
THE BARRIER 205
"I should like to have it so."
"You have judged well in all things, Mary.
Thank you, once more."
" And yet all your troubles have come through
me," she said.
"They might be doubled, for I know their power
now. They cannot reach the heights of the soul."
"That is most true."
"And then, when I see you once more, it seems
to me that all I have endured is over. You can-
not believe with what impatience I have waited
for the time when I could speak to you again."
"I, too, have longed for a chance to speak freely
with you," she replied.
"I thought of you all last evening."
"And I of you! I admired what you had done."
"How I wish our thoughts might have been
the same. You told me of sometWng which has
cost you tears, regrets, and hopes. Do you re-
member your last words to me? "
"You told me you were no longer engaged.
For hours and hours I have thought over your
words, Mary, and I have resolved to speak to you
as I could not have spoken before."
"You are wrong, I fear."
"Do not stop me. Let me speak. I am soon
to be so far away from you. I have questioned my
heart, in great perplexity at first, afterwards with
a sort of calmness and hope. I thought I knew
myself, but I did not. You have been in my
heart much longer than I was conscious, and
doubtless from the first. Thank God I did not
206 THE BARRIER
then know what might have turned me aside
from my great purpose! And yet you were never
to me like other girls. When you were a stranger,
a partner at tennis, almost unknown to me, I
turned to you in the greatest crisis of my life.
What inspired this wonderful confidence? "
"You have already told me," she answered.
"It was partly that you attributed to me a sound-
ness of judgment which I have not always for
myself, and still more because you thought that
we should never meet again."
"Yes, but we have met. Almost in spite of my-
self I saw you again; my well-weighed plans were
broken down, and why? What force drew me
up your mother's stairs when I had persisted for
days in staying away? Explain to me my obedi-
ence to your slightest word; my joy when I am
beside you; my deep trouble, as at this moment.
I never understood it until last night when think-
ing over these months which have changed every-
thing within me and around me. Mary, I am
sure that I have always loved you, at least a little,
but far less than now."
Marie slackened her steps and gazed at him
steadily and sadly.
"Reginald," she said, "do not speak to me of
a love I cannot share."
"You cannot share it?"
"No, my friend."
She spoke with so deep a pity for the pain she
was giving that neither of them could add another
word as they walked on, side by side, with bowed
heads, their shadows forming but one, which
- V c u
THE BARRIER 207
moved before them down the dope. For they
had reached the end of the row of pines, and were
passing beneath the ilexes which bound the ex-
tremity of the Piazza di Siena. Reginald spoke
"I have deceived myself then. You are not the
woman I thought you."
His tone had grown harsh. He made no at-
tempt to curb his anger, which was only grief.
"You scorn one who has all the world against
him. Yesterday I might have been a man to in-
spire some interest. To-day I am a mere younger
son, a poor subaltern!''
''Ah, do not speak like that! You are ungen-
erous. You are not yourself at this moment ! In
truth you might have the right to accuse me if I
had ever tried to make you love me, if I had
been a thoughtless coquette. But I have nothing
of the sort to reproach myself with, as you well
"Yes, I know it. But why do you repulse me?
Why do you act like other women whom I have
not loved? You whom I believed so diflferent!
Is it because you could not marry an English-
man? You are fiercely French. Is it that ? "
"I am tenderly so, which is a different thing.
If you wish to know my real feeling on the subject,
I will tell you : I should prefer to marry a French-
man, but I could love a foreigner. Do not doubt
"But he would carry you too far away. You
"Oh, no, not that."
208 THE BARRIER
''I cannot offer you a brilliant position now.
All luxuries, all that nutkes an easy, attractive
life, I have renounced for the present. But I
shall at least inherit my father's title. I can ex-
change and return to England. I could "
'' Reginald, you misunderstand me wholly. I
have already answered you,"
*'It is myself then, my character, my disposi-
tion, or my person, that you cannot love? Ah, I
had hoped more of this last interview! I am
indeed alone since you abandon me I''
"Neverl Listen to me!"
Marie spoke in the firm tones of a mother
reproving a wilful child. The sunshine cast a
golden gleam over her delicate profile.
"You will be able to understand me, you who
have a strong religious sense. You have told me
your secrets. I owe you mine. I loved F^licien,
who has been a friend from childhood. He had
admirable qualities, and talents, and inheritances
which attached me to him. We seemed destined
for each other. But I exacted one condition,
the greatest, the most essential for me — ^that he
should share my faith, and he was forced to own
to me with tears that he could not fulfil it."
"I remember. We passed a night together —
a night of vigil."
**So we parted, and I shall never marry him."
Reginald turned away his face. He hesitated
for a moment, but generous youth and imperious
kindness carried the day.
"Mary, how could he abandon a faith like his —
and a being like you? He is at the age when men
THE BARRIER 209
have such splendid resources of energy and are
capable of such sudden changes/'
*'I had hoped for that. I have waited."
He saw that tears were trembling on her lashes,
and that she thanked him. In a warmer gleam of
sunlight they walked on side by side, and entered
the pine-grove on the further side of the arena.
They were returning now to their starting-point.
Far off they could see the two ladies, making a
patch of blackness on the stones and turf.
*'Even after that, I tried once more," she said.
"I wrote to him. I have already learned how
slight the power of love is. Now, all is over,
She stopped and leaned against a pine, with one
arm raised above her head, and Reginald stood
before her in order that he might look in her
face, and as if to prevent her escaping him.
" — Only I have suffered, Reginald."
"I saw it. I compared yoriook now with
what it was formerly."
"I have changed, have I not?"
"That which gives added beauty is a change,
"I have been so deeply shaken that I feel I r
have no right now to accept the love of another.
These memories must be dispelled to allow me
even to listen. I should feel that I was profaning
the tenderness offered me, if a shadow within
me mingled with it."
*' Sweet 9oul that you are!"
"I wish to be wholly strong against the past. I
wish that there should be no regrets, do you un-
210 THE BARRIER
derstand? No dust of shattered affections in the
heart I give to him who shall come/'
**He has come, Mary."
She made no answer.
*Tell me that I may love you- Then I shall no
longer be alone, and I can go away joyful."
Her outstretched arm clasped the tree for
"Tell me that I may write to you from out
there, and that you will write to me."
She made a gesture of assent and Reginald
"Ah, then you will learn to love me. I am
sure of it!"
"I do not wish to know. Are we destined for
each other, Reginald, my friend Reginald? Do
not let us be carried away by words of weakness.
Let us control our hearts which have been sorely
tried, and are striving to find consolation. It is
for me to fortify and warn you. You are about
to leave me, keep yourself free to forget me."
"I do not wish to be free," he pleaded.
"It is not at this last moment that you can
speak the first word of love to me — can ask for
my promise and pledge nie yours. Reginald, we
have a nobler farewell to speak to eadi other —
stronger and more worthy of us both."
Marie, as she spoke, wore again the expression
she had worn in the woods of Redhall when he had
asked her counsels. Her sensitive face grew
stronger and finer with all the energy of her race,
her noble nature, her purity and power of sus-
taining others, her pity without weakness, her
THE BARRIER 211
spirit of self-sacrifice and of challenge to life,
her courage in the hour of difficulty. The eyes
which had been filled with tears were now clear
and serious, no longer looking into Reginald's to
understand, to divine, to follow his thought, but to
command in the name of an authority ever present
and supreme. As one who through pity forgets
her own grief, she had conquered all perplexities,
and saw clearly for herself and for him.
"Let us not bid each other adieu under the
illusion of a rash tenderness, but in the certainty
of a perfect friendship."
And in his turn he made no reply,
"Let us part in mutual gratitude, because we
have helped each other to rise."
"You have indeed helped me," he said.
"You also. What examples of courage you
have given me I That letter last evening! All
night I thought of it and reproached myself for
my weakness. Truly, if I have the strength to
speak to you as I do, it is to you that I owe it!
You have led me back into the higher path. I
thank you. I shall think of you daily. Nothing
can spoil our memory of each other. We have
tried to do our duty to each other, and in doing
it I believe that we have fulfilled our destiny.
Go freely, Reginald, towards the future ! "
With an aflfectionate gesture she took his hand.
"My brother Reginald, I will love you all my
He pressed the valiant little hand and said in
a scarcely audible tone :
212 THE BARRIER
"Yes, all our lives. You have a noble soul,
Mary, far nobler than I knew. You are right, for
the present at least. But leave me the future.
I obey you. I go without a murmur. Adieu."
He was trembling and quite pale. Marie re-
mained standing where he had left her, while he
stepped backwards, slowly, still gazing at her
through the pines. When he was a few paces
off he spoke again, striving to appear master of
''You look too much like her who shared my
victory on the day of the tournament — ^Westgate
— little Mary, adieu."
The ruddy sunlight again fell on the brown
hair of the colour of ripe chestnut burrs. Regi-
nald paused once more and his lips moved, but
his words no longer reached her across the dis-
tance that divided them.
Two days later Reginald landed on the blooming
quay of Pallanza. The boat was leaving the pier
to round the rocky cape and terraced gardens
which form one point of the Borromean Bay
and divide Lago Maggiore. He sought amidst
the crowd of tourists and Italian venders on the
pier the friend whom he was amazed not to find
awaiting him. The wind which was sweeping
down from the Alps reached even this sheltered
landing, and rose again in a whirlwind, car-
rying the dry leaves before it.
Reginald, who knew that the Eden Hotel
was situated on the extreme point of the cape,
crossed the piazza diagonally, passing the old
THE BARRIER 213
houses built on arcades, and had begun climb-
ing the slope lined with villas, into which the
carriages from the pier were already turning,
when, suddenly, at the opening of the road, an
Englishman appeared, running and breathless,
waving his arms as he cried:
* ' How are you, Reginald? I am late, then."
*'How are you, Hargreave?"
They gazed at each other intently. Hargreave,
taller, thinner, and more awkward than ever,
hesitated to appear his jovial self and restrained
the broad smile which was habitual with him.
"You look at me as anxiously as if I were re-
covering from an illness," said Reginald. "My
dear fellow, do not worry about me. I am the
same man as ever, and am on my way back to
service. I sail thds evening — ^unless my father
keeps me; in that case I shall go to-morrow.
How is he?"
"Wonderfully well. This climate suits him."
"So much the better. He has not seemed too
Fully restored to himself, Hargreave drew
Reginald rapidly along, and as they ascended the
hill, went on with increasing animation :
"He? His best friends, like myself, fail to
comprehend the complicated mechanism of his
mind. I know what he is doing, but I have no
idea what he is thinking, when he chooses to keep
it to himself 1 I can only assure you that he is lead-
ing an active life, and one according to his tastes.
He has a little white boat rigged as a sloop, in
which we sail back and forth across the lake.
214 THE BARRIER
She is a swift sailer, Reginald, and serves very
well for fishing. We fish for the char but your
father is particularly enthusiastic over the trout.
He considers them a thousand times prettier and
more delicious than those of Lago di Garda,
which are brown-scaled, as you know. Here
they flash in the water like sunbeams, and have
a very delicate flavour, especially when seasoned
with old Lesa wine. The mountains here offer
hundreds of excursions, but your father tires
more easily than formerly. He has joined the
skating club which owns an artificial pond
over yonder, behind the Crocetta estate. In
short, the place seems very favourable to your
father's health. But I have no notion as to his
state of mind concerning you, nor as to what
sort of a welcome you will receive.''
''He got my letter?"
"Yes, the day before yesterday, while he was
taking his coffee on the terrace. The chasseur
brought only one, and I recognised your hand-
writing. Sir George tore it open and glanced at
the first line, then thrust it hastily into his vest
pocket, saying: 'I have received bad news, Har-
greave. You won't leave me this afternoon, will
you?' We took a long, a very long walk. He
seemed sad, and once or twice I thought he was
about to speak to me of you. But no, nothing!
And yet he said, 'You won't leave me?'"
They followed the path, which was bordered
by tropical plants of every variety, while through
the branches of the trees they caught glimpses of
the blue mountains across the lake.
THE BARRIER 215
"I will go on ahead and find him/' said Har-
greave, "and tell him that you are here awaiting
Reginald laid his hand on his old friend's arm,
"Be sure and add that I submit to his orders
and only ask for one thing: to see him, even
without exchanging a word, to see him if only for a
Hargreave's face expressed ssmapathy, mingled
with regret and reproach, such as one feels for
"Brave boyl" he said. " I don't understand
you, but I have a weakness for you, all the
"Tell him, also, that my afifection for him is un-
changed, that my respect has never wavered.
Hargreave went on alone, repeating to himself
like a refrain:
"Redhall! Redhalll The future lord of Red-
hall awaiting justice from his father!"
Sir George was sitting in the glazed gallery of
the hotel reisuling the newspaper, with his back to
the light. Contrary to his habit, he allowed
Hargreave to open the door and come in without
accosting him, without seeming aware of his
friend's presence. Hargreave approached, rais-
ing his shoulders and contracting the muscles of
his long neck, which, with him, was a sign of em-
"There is some one outside, my dear fellow,
who would like to see you, only to see you, even
without speaking a word."
216 THE BARRIER
The hands holding the newspaper trembled so
violently that Sir George let it drop lest the
rattling of the sheet should be audible; as he said :
"Ah, really! I suspected as much."
"He has come a long way."
"I did not invite him."
"He is waiting in the road. If you refuse to
s6e him, it will cause him great pain."
"He is younger than I to bear his pain!"
"And he will take the next boat "
"He is quite free to do so."
And with these words the old baronet sprang
to his feet, red with anger.
"Does he bring me excuses? No, I am sure
not. You cannot say that he offers any, and if
you did I should not believe you; he is my son.
Then why do you expect me to change? He knew
what he was doing. So do I ! You can bring him
in, Hargreave, but I shall not be here. If he
adis you where I am, yx)u can say that I had a
rush of blood to the head, and needed to take
And with hasty steps Sir George crossed the
gallery and entered the adjoining salon, slamming
the door behind him.
Hargreave walked out of the hotel, bitterly re-
gretting that he had consented to be the bearer of
messages between these two. He followed the
little path bordered by palms and ferns until he
caught sight of Reginald, when feeling powerless
to speak to him, to comfort him, to be a witness
of his youthful sorrow, he made a despairing ges-
ture, saying with arms and head and eyes:
THE BARRIER 217
"It is useless. I have done your errand badly.
I have not succeeded. Do not come!"
On the deck of the steamboat^ half an hour later,
Reginald Breynolds was seeking for a spot whence
he could distinguish most clearly, and for the
longest time, the house where his father had re-
fused to receive him. He found at last a place in
the bow, outside the awning which was flapping
in the breeze. The whole surface of the lake from
north to south was furrowed by the wind, and
quivering with life and light; the sun was just
sinking behind the mountains. The boat sound-
ed her whistle and put off, rounding first the little
island of San Giovanni, which lies opposite Pal-
lanza, and then the cape, upon whose terraces
the foliage scarcely stirred. Next she headed
straight to windward a few hundred yards from
the shore, which here sent out a succession of long
spurs into the lake as far as the eye could dis-
tinguish them in the rising mist. Reginald
strove intently to make out which of the closed
windows in the great square building on the
height might hide the figure of Sir George, which
curtain might be lifted for a moment and then let
He was no longer troubled; he had accepted
the ordeal and did not rebel. The Sempione was
making good speed; it would soon be difficult to
distinguish the outlines of a man's figure on the
hotel balconies. They had already passed the
chffs of San Remigio, bright with geraniums, the
shores were growing flatter, the little town and
218 THE BARRIER
beach of Intra were just coming in sight when
Reginald started, and with a rapid gesture raised
his hat from his head. From the shelter of a
rock a white skiff glided out and bore down on
the Sempione^ canying so much sail that she
careened before the wind. A man held the tiller,
an old man, sitting very upright.
All the passengers rose to see how close the
sloop would cross the track of the steamer. She
passed so near as to graze the hull. For an instant
Reginald saw the small blue eyes beneath their
white lashes fixed upon his; then the sloop, caught
in a sudden gust, veered away from the steamship,
which was running straight for Locarno. She did
not turn again. But invisible, leaning half-way
across the gunwale, separated already by dis-
tance, by the light mist and the oncoming dark-
ness from the big boat, old Sir George still peered
out to catch her dim outline. Then as night de-
scended, he saw only one of her side-lights like a
little star skimming the surface of the water.
UMVERSmr OF MICHIQAN
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